Is Metal Approaching Extinction? A Conversation With Unearth

“There is a tidal wave of great new heavy music out there, and anyone who says it’s a bad time for metal just isn’t paying attention,” Unearth screamer and growler Trevor Phipps says. “This moment in heavy music feels a lot like the 2002 to 2006 wave that had metal crushing both in the clubs and on the charts.”

On Unearth’s seventh studio effort overall, Extinction(s), released Nov. 23 via Century Media, the Boston group—which also includes guitarists Buz McGrath and Ken Susi, bassist Chris O’Toole, and drummer Nick Pierce—sound as ferocious as ever, still specializing in a style that is 100 percent hard-hitting hardcore metal but, according to Phipps, with a slightly different twist.

“There was a conscious effort on Extinction(s) to mix our original sound and energy with where we’ve come as players and songwriters, as well as try a few new things,” he says. “The final product sounds different than anything we’ve ever done, but on most songs, you can still hear that it is Unearth.”

The quintet has also picked one heck of a heavy track to lead off the album, “Incinerate,” which, as it turns out, contains a politically-charged message.

“‘Incinerate’ is meant to be a song of unity in today’s polarized world,” Phipps explains. “With all the ugliness and propaganda being thrown our way, I want people to come together and push back against the anti-democratic rhetoric that is being force-fed to us daily around the world.”

Admittedly, without Phipps explaining what the song’s lyrics are about, most listeners would be left scratching their heads about just what the heck he is saying, as he often utilizes a hollered vocal style—which leads to an obvious question: Has he ever experienced vocal trouble?

“Every singer experiences some setbacks from time to time,” Phipps admits. “I’ve battled hoarseness, lack of power, limited range, etc. on tours when I’m not fully healthy or just in the middle of a bunch of shows in a row. I have a solid regimen that I’ve developed over the years for warm-up, cool-down, and maintenance that has been keeping my voice as healthy as ever of late.”

For up-and-coming singers who also push their vocal cords to the max, Phipps is kind enough to offer some tips on how to develop and maintain one’s chops.

“Hydration, taking care of your body and mind, and the knowledge of what you’re doing,” he cites. “Take vocal lessons with an instructor—or find lessons on YouTube—on projecting your voice properly, so you’re not tearing your voice up every time you sing. My tip is to aim the air and the sound at your ‘mask,’ which is from the tip of your front top teeth to the top of your forehead. This will keep you away from vibrating and hurting your throat too much and allow for a better sound and wider range. Another key is to make sure you’re expanding your lungs outward and not upward. This will strengthen your diaphragm and allow you to control your breathing and airflow throughout your performance.”

“I’ve found that breathing properly or improperly can be a major factor in my health and abilities,” he adds. “I once had to call my vocal coach, Melissa Cross, from Europe in the middle of a 20-day string of shows, because I picked up some bad habits and lost my voice. She coached me on the phone through a series of breathing exercises, and my voice was solid that night and for the remainder of the tour.”

“As for hydration and taking care of your body, your vocal cords won’t vibrate to their full ability if they are dry, so keep those fuckers wet, especially on tour,” Phipps advises. “Drench them with water, green tea with honey, and whatever electrolyte beverage of your choice. Also, overall well-being of the mind and body will allow you to put forth as much energy as possible, which generally leads to a better-sounding voice.”

If all goes according to plan, fans all over the world can expect Phipps and his bandmates in Unearth to rock a nearby concert stage soon.

“We will be supporting this record with touring in as many places as will have us,” he says. “There are tours in the works for Canada, Europe, Mexico, Japan, and Australia right now, and we are going to build on that for now. There will, of course, be another U.S. tour in 2019 to add to that list, as well as plans to go back to Asia, South Africa, and South America. We’ll choose our tours more wisely and won’t be out 10 months out of the year, but we’ll be out there grinding it out, playing songs from Extinction(s) and likely every other record.”

Purchase Extinctions here

Top photo by Alan Snodgrass

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