02. Carve My Cross
03. Handbook For The Recently Deceased
04. Choking On Sand
05. Let Me Be The One
06. Sunglasses At Night
07. Martyred Or Mourning
08. No One Lies To The Dead
09. I Share In Shame
Among extreme metal fans, Arsis are usually referred to both with reverence and disappointment. Their initial releases are regarded by many as hallmark technical/melodic death metal efforts. But as they proceeded further into their career, they appeared to lose their spark. Many longtime fans became disenchanted with frontman/mastermind James Malone’s descent towards the same hole that Children of Bodom‘s Alexi Laiho seemingly fell in. But the recently (via Scion A/V) released EP Lepers Caress indicated that Malone was taking the band back into the heavier, darker direction it came from. The EP wasn’t entirely convincing, but it was a step in the right direction. Shortly after the EP, Arsis’s fifth album Unwelcome was announced; and even the artwork of the album hearkened back to the older Arsis albums. Now that Unwelcome is upon us, it’s clear that Malone has regained his muse, and that the Arsis that fans originally fell in love with is back, after all these years.
To be entirely fair, Unwelcome isn’t a total regression back to the band’s debut album A Celebration of Guilt, but it’s unreasonable to expect that the band would undo nine years of musical development. Instead, what Unwelcome offers is wisdom gained from hindsight; integrating all the good elements from the band’s colorful career and learning from the mistakes. Yes, there are glam-influenced parts like on the oft-maligned Starve For The Devil, but they are applied at crucial moments where they work well and not overused. There are blackened influences like the older material, and there is a return to the emphasis on technicality that was found on We Are The Nightmare. All of these elements are present, but they aren’t constantly prominent.
The resulting sound is something characteristically Arsis, somehow being a logical step forward considering their past albums, even though those albums were wildly inconsistent. Fans who consider A Celebration of Guilt to be the only true Arsis album might be disappointed, but those who followed the band for all of their career regardless of all the missteps will be very pleased. Some of the previous albums were clearly lacking in terms of inspired writing, as some songs tended to devolve into non-specific riff fests. Gone is that lack of direction, as each song on Unwelcome is very focused and there are no more “filler” riffs. There are very few moments where the album doesn’t grab the listener’s attention with great writing. Yes, there’s also a cover of the cheesy 80’s pop song ‘Sunglasses at Night’, and it works perfectly with the rest of the album, and it’s not a lazy cover unlike many other reproductions from other metal bands.
Most songs on the album loosely follow the traditional Arsis formula of “flashy beginning, a few groovy/heavy riffs, memorable melodic section, solo, repeat with some variations.” The riffing is top notch, combining groove, melody and heaviness with that James Malone charm. Harmonies and counterpoints are applied heavily all over the album, resulting in an even fuller and more satisfying sound. There’s also an abundance of solos, making this an overall very satisfying album technically.
The production is top notch, better than any of the previous Arsis albums. The guitars are very clearly audible yet they don’t have the fatiguing quality that a lot of modern metal albums have due to overproduction. The drums also sound very punchy without being overbearing. The bass is almost completely inaudible, which is a shame, but its role in the music is minimal anyway. Malone’s vocals are fairly monotone, but they’re not very loud in the mix and they do their job. Vocally it’s not an outstanding album, but at least Malone hits at the right spots with his screaming. Overall, it’s no different than the previous albums by the band in terms of the vocals and bass, but the guitars and drums are significantly improved in terms of production.
Unwelcome is a great album, both a very welcome (ha!) return to form and a step forward for Arsis. Everything good about previous Arsis albums is taken and refined to perfection in a manner that is very characteristic of the band. It’s the band’s best album since United In Regret, which means Unwelcome is a contender for Arsis’s best album so far. Fans of the band will be extremely pleased, and those who previously weren’t fans can easily find something to like about Unwelcome. As one of the most impressive releases of the year so far, Unwelcome is a must-listen.
Arsis – Unwelcome gets…