Unearth, Slayer bring metal to D.C.

“Shit, someone just gave me a bottle of booze, sweet!” I was on the phone with Buz McGrath, one of two guitarists from Unearth. The Boston-based metalcore band had been on the road for six days touring with metal legends Slayer. “So far the tour has been going great,” Buz told me over the phone while standing outside of the Sacramento, Calif., nightclub where he would be playing later that night. “There has been a great response from the kids, and we’ve had a great time so far.”

Opening up for a band like Slayer, however, is not as easy as one would think. Fans of classic metal acts, such as Iron Maiden and Slayer have in the past been more than unwelcoming to the opening performances, oftentimes shouting at them to get off the stage to make way for their metal heroes. “Slayer fans are Slayer fans and can be very cold. At first I was worried about opening for such a great band, but we are winning those kids over, which is great!.”

Buz McGrath had been going to hardcore shows in Boston since he was 11 years old. Early 90s hardcore bands such as Sick Of It All and Slapshot greatly influenced Buz as a kid and later Unearth. When asked if he could comment on Unearth’s sound, the guitarist described it as “hardcore meets heavy metal.” During their early years, the quintet played smaller, local shows around the Boston area, while trying to “develop a fresh and unique sound” with their first album, “The Stings of Conscience.”

When producing their latest album, “III: In the Eyes of Fire,” just released this past summer, Unearth sought out to see “how brutal and how heavy” they could make it. After listening to songs like “This Glorious Nightmare,” “Giles” and “March of the Mutes,” it is clear that Unearth went far beyond their goal. Trevor Phipps’ brutally heavy vocals clash in your face with razor shape dual guitars, producing a harrowing and traumatic sound.

I asked Buz McGrath what we can expect from their show, which will be coming to Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club on both Feb. 19 and 20. “Just expect a big party, five guys up on stage giving 110 percent to their music.”

I left Buz that night in interesting manner. “Hold on there is a fight unfolding across the street! Looks pretty intense! Some dude is trying to fight everybody, it’s amazing! Connecting punches! If he comes near me I’m gonna fucking run.” Clearly the mood of a kickass concert had been set, yes, a good three hours before the show.

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