(In this post TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album by Arsis, which is being released today.)
Arsis are one of those cult bands who really should be getting more acclaim in the metal world than they do. Time and time again, James Malone has proven himself to be not only an iconic metal front man, with his raptor-like, wrist-slitting screeches and his capacity to execute virtuoso-level technical riffs, but also an ingenious musician. The band have always been a fine example of melodic death metal that truly is classical in its nature, especially with the absolutely insane counterpoint for which James Malone has become known in dual-guitar displays. He’s been through a revolving lineup, but this band is his, and because it’s his, it’s always been truly Arsis at its core — a band with an identity — though his experimentation with differing bandmates has been considered a mixed-results affair by many, most of whom were enamored by the band’s arresting debut A Celebration of Guilt.
To a lot of the Arsis fan base, Unwelcome was an album that had to shoulder the burden of making up for Starve for the Devil, a release that many saw as one of the band’s weakest efforts. I liked that album, but I could see where it might’ve turned some people off with its thrashier direction and a production quality that didn’t exactly help convey the music’s force. We got a taste of what was in store with the band’s excellent Scion A/V EP Lepers Caress (still freely downloadable here), a delightful sampler that saw Arsis playing faster, hitting harder, and pushing technical limits in a way that hadn’t been heard in a while. Unwelcome not only cements the impression at which Lepers Caress hinted, it also proves James Malone’s definitive place in the American metal fabric as a musician and composer who should be put up there with the likes of even Chuck Schuldiner. This is Arsis’ most brutal, yet most sophisticated album to date and is definitely one of the shining stars of 2013.
Unwelcome’s opening track (and title track) wastes no time in establishing the album’s musical direction. It’s a jarring assault of melodic counterpoint riffs and intense carpet-bombing on the drum front, with a triumphant chorus which incorporates a victorious lead that’ll stick in your head for ages; it works as a fitting introduction to the album as a whole. If you haven’t guessed by this point, the killer-riff count on this album is up there.
I mean, if “Unwelcome” didn’t whoop your ass enough, the second track (the only one from the EP to make it on here, except as bonus tracks) “Carve my Cross” should make the point clear. This ain’t no fuckin’ ’round kinda shit ’round here. It’s the sharp riffs, the massive guitar layers (like the sexy triple-guitar pre-solo bridge), and the solos that make me ready to just abandon my own instrumental aspirations on the spot.
The rest of the album is just non-stop blazing melodic death metal with sophistication and depth you don’t hear much these days. It’s the variation, the fact the riffs are all interesting and adrenaline-pumping, the drums laying napalm across miles of earth, the cover of “Sunglasses At Night” by Corey Hart.
The cover is played with such conviction, such intensity, that it’s almost ludicrous, but the song itself translates into one of the most memorable ones on the album and stands as a testament to just how musically proficient Malone is. It’s absolutely true to the original, yet its own thing.
Arsis have seen a long career full of ups and downs. Most of the lineup on Unwelcome as well as the EP before it, is completely new blood, all of whom are extremely talented musicians and proficient at their craft. Noah Martin, the bassist, is the only member from the previous line-up still here. New co-axman Brandon Ellis and drummer Shawn Priest absolutely fit into what Arsis are now doing. Their performances on this album are impeccable, with Priest’s drumming having an unrelenting yet refined edge to it and Ellis showing himself to be someone who could be a noteworthy shredder.
This is, definitively, the strongest album released under the Arsis name to date. This is the mark on the scene that really demonstrates an unfairly overlooked musical force that could stand to be noticed more despite Malone’s commitment to pressing on for 13 years now. Savage yet refined, technical yet succinct, beautiful yet venom-soaked, Unwelcome is THE melodic death metal album of 2013 unless someone of equal noteworthiness somehow derails it.
Fucking buy it.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Unwelcome is being released today by Nuclear Blast and can be ordered here, as well as on digital platforms. The two official lyric videos from the album that have been released to date can be heard and viewed below. The band have also finished shooting a video for “Scornstar”, for which they reportedly acquired 75 gallons of blood, 15 pounds of meat, and homemade explosives. Described as “an homage to good old fashioned 80s horror movie gore meets heavy metal parking lot”, it should be out soon.
And in other Arsis news, the band begin a North American tour tomorrow with Krisiun; the schedule is here — but check for updates because some venues may change in the wake of Hypocrisy and Aborted dropping off the tour.