It has been some time since I formally disregarded the notion of resurrection. Until Saturday evening that is. I saw a heavily intoxicated man, on the brink of expiry, emphatically jump back to life during one of the many, powerful breakdowns with which Unearth were “assaulting” the crowd in South Africa on Saturday.
I have seen many local acts before, and in the last 4 years, I have been fortunate to see many of my favourite international acts too. I am always amazed at quality these international bands manage to put together, especially on stage.
I have massive admiration for metal bands in South Africa. There is almost no market, little support in terms of infrastructure, few international acts with which to rub shoulders and share stages. That said, the separation between album quality production and the live versions, is often noticeable. At times, the act seems overproduced in their recording efforts, which is not quite delivered during the live renditions and on other occasions, the production does not seem to capture everything that they have to offer on stage.
The case with these seasoned international bands is different on several levels. Not only do they have some of the most talented musicians out there, writing and recording their material, these guys are so good, they can reproduce this sound on stage, whilst dislocating their vertebrae. It shows, and the sound is unbelievable. They have to ability to capture all those musical nuances and salient features, which makes the song what it is. That which provides to the songs a fundamental authenticity, a signature that reverberates all around the venue.
In the case of Unearth, they took this identity to a brand new level for me. The last time I experienced this kind of intense, physical, head banging, euphoria was in the Bring Me The Horizon moshpit at their 2013 Rock AM Ring show. This was at the height of my obsession with BMTH, which optimally translates into vicious head banging. I haven’t actively listened to Unearth since my initial run in with them in 2007-2009, but they did manage to awake, with some fury, some dormant Unearth obsession which I had buried and forgotten about.
The drums were loud and crisp, like you have come to expect from the headline acts. The bass was in your face, shaking loose the bones in your chest like heavy bass does to a cheap car speaker. I would like to say that the guitars sounded on top of the drums and bass, but it didn’t. It took its rightful place alongside the drum and bass foundation, playing with little auditory duplication, each instrument taking care of its layer as though it had been engineered to fit every song in a very precise manner. The vocals took its place alongside the rest. It produced, with incredible unity and accuracy, the thickest sounding live performance I have ever seen. It is amazing how they managed to shape the auditory assault that is Unearth, into easily digestible portions of extremely heavy, extremely powerful, balls-to-the-wall metal, without any of it getting lost in the massive acoustic overload.
Also, it sounded as though Buzz and co were playing 75 foot wide 1000-string Ibanez’s, which produced a sound so thick it could derail trains. How do you do that? How do you even…? The precision, the accuracy, the sound!
I have seen many bands in the past, none quite as heavy. Protest the Hero, it must be said, are instrumentally superior, both live and on record, but no band has ever extracted from my legs, and my back, and my neck, and my head, the fury that Unearth managed to on Saturday. That goes to the top of my list of live bands seen. Wow they were good!
The video here for me set the tone for what we experienced on Saturday.