If Unearth wanted to cover a classic Dean Martin hit, the logical choice would be 1960's "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" -- not because The Oncoming Storm sounds anything at all like the late Rat Pack crooner, but because Unearth does, in fact, feel like a kick in the head. Mercy is not a high priority on this 2004 release, which demonstrates just how nasty, punishing, and downright vicious the metalcore style can be. Some of Unearth's riffing hints at thrash metal, but The Oncoming Storm is a metalcore disc first and foremost -- and most of the bands that were part of thrash in the '80s and early '90s (Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, Anthrax, among others) were not as harsh as Unearth. From Trevor Phipps' screaming vocals to the band's suffocating use of density, tracks like "Black Hearts Now Reign," "Lie to Purify," and "Failure" pack a brutal punch. Those who don't comprehend metalcore (which is definitely an acquired taste) might wonder why a disc that merits words like harsh, nasty, vicious, and punishing would appeal to anyone -- what do Unearth's fans get out of such an album? Why would they appreciate and enjoy something that's so unmusical? And the answer is that for Unearth and other metalcore units, The Oncoming Storm is all about the thrill of pure, raw exhilaration as well as emotional catharsis; Phipps' nonstop screaming is very cathartic for Unearth and their fans in the mosh pit. The Oncoming Storm falls short of remarkable, but it's a noteworthy, generally decent demonstration of metalcore's harshly exhilarating powers.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson