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Unearth’s Ken Susi On Metalcore: “Bands Wearing Flip-Flops And Stuff Got 10x Bigger Doing What We Did”


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Unearth guitarist Ken Susi guested on the latest episode of ‘Jon’s Untitled Podcast‘ and among other things, weighed in on the state of metalcore and how he feels that some band’s who copied Unearth‘s style were able to catapult past them in terms of commercial success. Regarding that, he stated:

“We’re in a place where where this happened, like, I mean, we put out ‘The Oncoming Storm‘, it does very well. Prior to that we had ‘The Stings of Conscience‘ that came out that was like us as a VFW Hall band, which was like, we were just struggling to be musicians to get our word out.

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Back in the day, we would write these riffs and things like we’re trying to fuse like Iron Maiden, you know, mixed with like Hatebreed and Crowbar and all that cool stuff. So we’re trying to do all that kind of thing, and like back then no one was doing it, so it was really, really easy writing a record. And then like sure enough we get popular and then a bunch of people like other bands wearing flip-flops and stuff got like, 10x bigger doing what we did.

And I mean, they were like, kind of like, you know, flip-flop metalcore or whatever, you know, they got much bigger at what they’re doing—and I don’t knock those bands at all for, you know, going and taking our sound and going forward with it; ’cause you know, it’s something that we tried to do. But, compared to us versus like all the other bands in our genre, the guys that we grew up with or the guys that like kind of, you know, took our sound and went forward with it they’re also kind of making the same sounding record today.

And if you listen to like things you know like ‘The Stings Of Conscience and ‘The Oncoming Storm‘ and then you go from ‘Storm‘ to ‘3: In The Eyes Of Fire, those are dramatic jumps. Like we try, we try our hardest to like make sure that like every record progressed differently and we weren’t like the same old sounding Unearth—even though people would… during that time period, people would be like ‘uh this is a metalcore record’ and they chalk it up if they don’t know how to label it, they kinda call us metalcore and all that stuff.

We did take chances if you listen to other bands you know in our genre they make you can’t tell one record from the next. So we got to a point where we did… ‘Darkness In The Light‘ was a record that we wanted to, you know, go back to that Storm period, write really melodic record that Buz and I are were really feeling like that we should write a really technical record…

And this record was like… Buz and I were really tired of like struggling onstage like having us be precise on every note. I want to have fun again, like when we were 20-years-old onstage, playing riffs and jumping around and, you know, have a good time. Believe it or not, like this record is… ‘Everyone says that like oh we’re the heaviest band ever now, and oh my god, it’s so brutal.’ Like that’s not Unearth, like, Unearth is not going to give you some marketing crap like jargon that every band uses like that.

It sounds like we’re a group of dudes, like how we were VFW hall band. Like this is us like VFW Hall band 2.0 and this is like where we belong and we feel like fun in doing this type of stuff. And we may make a different record or we may stick with this who knows? We feel really good about this particular record you know that our reviews and people who have heard it think it’s one of our best efforts, so that’s all you can you really hope for.”

When told by the show’s host that he felt that Unearth had kind of become a band’s band—in that their contributions to the metalcore genre were appreciated most by their peers, Susi went on to say:

“It’s exactly what I was said earlier. What happened was, where we got our sound was by like playing shows with Shadows Fall and Hatebreed in the same weekend.

Like we got to play with bands like Turmoil and All Out War all these super heavy hardcore bands or these really melodic you know bands like Shadows Fall or Killswitch or whatever. And you know our sound came of that. We were trying to figure out to make a setlist, so if we play on Friday with Hatebreed we could play another set list with Shadows Fall the next day and it was all on the same record.

So we started bringing these things into our music to the point where it made us like the sounds of Unearth and like we even took the stance of like… I mean I was hanging with Tosin Abasi [Animals As Leaders] recently at a guitar clinic, and he was like ‘Dude, I think you guys are the first metal band to put sweeps over breakdowns.’ And I was like maybe I don’t know you know but I was like oh that would be kind of…..that was a really nice compliment he gave us you know with Tosin someone who’s that awesome at guitar to say that.

All I can say… yeah, basically what happened is people just took our sound at that time period. Because we got really big really quickly and there was no one else doing it and then there was like carbon copies just printing themselves out, you know like there was a million bands—I mean bands that came after us, but really good bands too. Like August Burns Red is really good, Parkway Drive’s really good, but you know they got 10 times bigger than us because they were a little bit younger; we were already at it for like six years and they put up some really good material and it just caught on and it’s like the second wave.

And let’s not forget like deathcore had the same thing. So there was Job For A Cowboy, remember that band? They were insane, but now there’s bands like Whitechapel like you know all these other really great bands that spawned off that but got bigger. I think that’s just kind of we were just kind of that. That kind of happened to us a little bit. But it doesn’t take away the fact that like we were one of the first to make you know the ‘modern metalcore’—like you know once you get breakdown and sweeps then you got like Iron Maiden parts infused in songs.

I mean I kind of some of that influence came from us. I’m not for saying we were the first to do it by any means. Like I was saying that today I did an interview with Guitar Player Magazine and I said like I personally think Cave In is the first band to do that. Steve Brodsky was awesome. They had like breakdowns and melodic riffs over beautiful beds of octaves and overdubs and you know, just singing; and it was like everything that like Poison The Well and all these other bands and Zao, were trying to do, mixed with Converge and it was the perfect….it was metalcore at its finest.

But we you know we were that, some of that happened to us and you know what, we are Unearth. We are happy to have our career we’re lucky for everything that we’ve ever achieved and I’m okay with that you know?

Hopefully time will tell and people will take notice but I think we’re a really cool band I think we did something really great I think we continue to still make great records that sounds different and a lot of other bands can’t say that.”

Susi also addressed former The Acacia Strain guitarist Daniel “DL” Laskiewicz having assisted with the writing process for Unearth‘s new album “Exinticion(s)“, Susi said of that:

“The record was written by us and we wrote with DL and there’s nothing wrong with that. Back in the day, Converge wrote a whole record [“When Forever Comes Crashing“] with Steve Brodsky [of Cave In/Mutoid Man] and I think it’s one of their best records. So was everybody complaining that Steve Brodsky wrote on a Converge record? No…”

Unearth‘s new album “Exintction(s)” will meet a November 23rd release on Century Media. A new single from it titled “One From The Sun” debuted just recently and can be heard here.

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