Two Stepping For One World - Metalcore & Mother Earth: an interview with Trevor Phipps
"The woman on the table is Mother Earth," states Unearth vocalist Trevor Phipps, "and everyone is just taking from her and taking from her, and they don't seem to care about the consequences. Until she finally wakes up and takes away all of our life support."
Though far from the first time the Massachusetts masters of metalcore have tackled the issue of global devastation, this statement comes at an unfortunately fitting time. As of this writing, much of the Northeast and Mid Atlantic United States have been blanketed for several days under smoke drifting down from widespread forest fires in Canada. While fires are not uncommon this time of year, a dry winter and spring have left many areas of North America at high risk for natural disasters.
Despite the uncanny timing, the original Phipps' original reference was the video for "Mother Betrayal", the second single from Unearth's latest album, The Wretched; The Ruinous (check out our review of the album here). In addition to the video, Phipps admits that while he loves every song from the band's eight full length release, "Mother Betrayal" is the one he has so far appreciated the most.
Forming in 1998 among a myriad of other Massachusettes acts that went on to great heights, such as All That Remains and Killswitch Engage, Unearth were quick to gain an immense fanbase. Phipps recalls "We released our first album (The Stings of Conscience) in January 2001. Then we played the New England Metal & Hardcore Fest in May of that year and everyone knew the words." Traveling beyond their home state, Phipps and company found similar scenes all across the United States and again in some of their earliest tours abroad.
As veterans from the earliest days of the subgenre, Unearth continues to proudly fly the flag high for metalcore. Keeping in what has become the traditional formula, every release has been a master class in fusing the intensity of metal, including thrash and melodic death, with the brutality and beatdowns of hardcore. These days, according to Phipps, "the (genre) gets thrown around a little too freely...a lot of melodic bands have pop choruses, I don't know where the 'core' is."
From Earth Crisis to Cattle Decapitation and Gojira, metal and hardcore have long been connected to the welfare and rights of animals and nature. Each track of The Wretched; The Ruinous carries on that legacy, but Phipps' perspective goes beyond simple lyrics of conservation. "We can each do our own thing to try to better the planet," he says, "but it's really up to who we vote for...and really just changing the energy that we consume to something more sustainable." This sentiment is concluded with a message that political parties are meaningless when all humans face the same threat.
Expanding on the things that divide societies at large, Phipps highlights the message of "Theaters of War", the closing track on The Wretched; The Ruinous. "By nature, (humans) are very tribal: we have all these individual, little things that we fight about and we pick sides very easily," he explains, "when we have a looming crisis that will affect all of us, all life on Earth, we still fight about relatively petty things. That's really the major downfall of our species: that we can't get on the same page for something staring us in the face."
Still, Phipps remains optimistic as more people are doing something to help out the planet and their communities. More attention is now on the subjects of sustainable energy, reusable resources, and conservation efforts. And to that point, while there is still hope for a better tomorrow, bands like Unearth will be there to provide inspiring music to move the masses to get up and do more.
Special thanks to Annie @ Adrenaline PR and Trevor Phipps
Live photos taken at Milwaukee Metal Fest 2023, ticket and photo pass courtesy of Suspiria PR