Massachusetts band Unearth are one of the flagbearers for the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement, being one of the most visible and hardest touring bands of that era. With all that heavy touring and steady stream of new music coming out, at some point, there would be an event to put the breaks on the band’s busy schedule, even as brief as it could be.
This moment happened for Unearth guitarist and co-founder Ken Susi when he was laid up with severe pain that came from getting his wisdom teeth yanked in early 2011. When speaking with Susi as their tour with Whitechapel got under way, he explained: “With that album, I wrote a good portion of that while I was bed-ridden. I was on a lot of pain pills due to the complications with the wisdom teeth, and it changed the way I wrote.” Even when the pain subsided, and before their 2011 album “Darkness In The Light” was released, the band was dealt a blow when drummer Derek Kerswell left the band.
After writing with their friend Justin Foley of Killswitch Engage for “Darkness”, which Susi said was great to have a friend in the band writing with them. But once Foley’s other duties called, the band didn’t waste any time looking for a drummer and came across You Tube to find their eventual new drummer, Nick Pierce. For Susi, it’s helped the band flourish: “He’s a really good dude with a good attitude. He’s been in groups like The Faceless, so he knows the music and very easy to deal with”.
With Pierce now fully within the Unearth fold, it’s the start of another chapter for the longtime metal band and a chance to reflect on things. When looking back at the material of “Darkness”, Susi refers to it as “his best guitar work to date. Even though the material for “The Oncoming Storm” was monumental for me, the guitar work on “Darkness” was far better for me.”
Being one of the elder statesmen on the scene now, Susi also gets a chance to take a look back at the scene when the band first started out and the fellow Massachusetts bands that they shared stages with over time: “When you go back to 1998 through 2000, the metal scene wasn’t relevant at the time. Then you had bands like Poison The Well and others that made people recognize this music again. We feel we did this the right way. Nobody in our scene looked at this and saw dollar signs in their eyes and gave everyone the opportunity to play.” For Susi, that kinship with fellow bands carries on to this very day: “Even when I get together with friends of mine like Adam from Killswitch Engage to this day, everybody talks about non-music stuff”.
With the tight knit Massachusetts scene still thriving and everyone getting along, there are still some things with newer metal bands that doesn’t settle right with Susi: “I’m an older cat on the scene, and these days, you just see a lot of garbage in the scene, a lot of bands who haven’t had the success we had just being very immature about handling things. We look to bands like bands like Terror, Killswitch and Sick of It All. After all those years, those guys still do things right”.
But one band that had been openers with Unearth was the Tennessee band Whitechapel, who are headlining the current tour between the bands. “Whitechapel were one of the bands that opened for us on their earliest tours and became good friends of ours. They’ve always treated us great and it’s good to see them rise from an opening spot to be the headliners that they are now.”
Unearth opens for Whitechapel at St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, February 5th. Tickets are $17.50 and are available at livenation.com. Additional tour dates and band info can be found at www.unearth.com.