Believe me when I say that in the past it has been more than easy to make fun of Arsis. Still, I give credit where it’s due; A Diamond for Disease is a modern death metal classic. But it’s only one song, and that is why Arsis often gets a thrashing. See, A Diamond for Disease (song) ruled, but it was on three-song EP, and the other two tracks absolutely blew. It’s a continuing trend with Arsis. They’ve always teetered on something awesome but tilted to the ***ty side, more often than failing to realize their potential. A Celebration of Guilt is a borderline enjoyable album marred by excessive distortion and layering. United in Regret flat out sucks, but even still there are hints of something good that glimmer throughout, and we’ve already been over the A Diamond for Disease EP. Approaching We Are the Nightmare, I drew a line in the sand: Put up or shut up.
Once again, I have mixed reactions. The only difference here is that compared to past outings, Arsis’ junior full-length is mostly decent. It bridges the gap between their previous full-lengths, mixing melody with overbearing wankery more fluidly than I’d have expected. Gone is the obtrusive layering found on A Celebration of Guilt, and James Malone has certainly lessened the emphasis on his “check me out” lead-work. Of course there has never been an element of bashfulness in Arsis’ sound and We Are the Nightmare is no exception. To their credit, the lead-work is absurdly well-executed from a technical standpoint, though the sheer multitude of shred on the album becomes more of a detriment with each passing song (and more so with each listen). The drums follow suit; though Darren Cesca is without question leaps-and-bounds better than previous drummer Mike Van Dyne, the percussive faults of United in Regret ultimately still rein true. Oftentimes, the drumming seems to embody the group’s ever-present inner-competition. Though it’s far less obvious than it’s been in the past, there’s a constant sense of one-upmanship to be heard, and while it obviously snowballs the album’s technical appeal, in the end the masturbatory machismo increases the overall futility of the shredwork. The consistent weedle-sweeps and dweedle-taps paired with the ridiculous amount of drum-fills eventually blur together and become a hindrance, as the excessiveness of it all lessens each technical display’s impact, cheapening We Are the Nightmare’s initial flair to a blatant cry for attention.
As much as these notions come off as negatives, there is nonetheless an unmistakeable balance on We Are the Nightmare. Malone’s apparent obsession with tightropes (you’ll notice the word popping up more than a handful of times throughout the album’s runtime) serve as a fitting metaphor for his music, as each instrument walks along one, occasionally falling off, only to be sustained by safety net; in the case of this extended metaphor, a relatively strong song structure. Each track seems to be built off a solid and relatively simple foundation, with the technical flamboyance seemingly layered on afterward. As a result of this the songs remain wholly listenable long-after the technicality becomes a chore to notice.
Chocking in at a modest 40-minutes, We Are the Nightmare does tend to drag at parts. At times, the group fails to abandon an idea while it’s still fresh, vying instead to test the listeners patience. There is also very little distinction between songs, and while there are no bands that sound like Arsis, Arsis’ sound is not strong enough to stay within itself for the entire duration of the album. It’s easy to forgive Malone’s grossly sub-par vocal work, just as it’s easy to look beyond the occasionally awkward sounding drums, but We Are the Nightmare is most easily faulted (and conversely appreciated) for the fact that it is such a literal blend of their past-outings. Long-since established fans of the band will obviously take pleasure in Arsis’ refined formula, but if what this group does has never clicked with you on any level, chances are that this album will provide only the slightest amount of joy. While it’s become obvious that they’ll never match the urgency and passion of their 13-minute epic, it’s becoming even more apparent that you can’t expect them to. Much like I have, it is time for listeners to put A Diamond for Disease behind them and accept Arsis for what they have become: solid.
I agree wholeheartedly. This and Mirrorthrone's "Gangrene" are the albums to b beat for best this year. The great thing about this album i that Arsis maintains a consistent style throughout the CD, but no two songs really sound alike.
Of all the extreme death bands who write songs where you can't tell one tune from the next, this one happens to be my favourite. All of the tunes sound exactly the same, but dang that stuff gets you pumped, especially for driving...drunk. It's like four albums with 40 plus minutes of the same song, but I gotta admit, I'm just lovin' it. I can't wait until the next CD with the same exact songs comes out. And, if I really want monotony stabbing away at my brain, there's always Goatwhorre and Pig Destroyer, oh and Origin too. After I listen to that stuff I'm left in a state of total catatonia where I just schitt all over myself and stare out of two vacant, black eye sockets, drooling into my lap. Great effect and brilliant music. Bravo. It's like a labotomy, but it comes in a digital aural form.
Definitely the most spot on review out of the bunch we have here on Sputnik. Listening to 1 song can get you stoked to hear the rest, but once you realize every song sounds the same and the song structuring is void of any consistency it's hard to like it as much. And as much as I love great guitar work and harmonized leads, it's just too much on WatN.
Nice review but again i'm going to have to disagree. I'm always partial to a bit of technical wankery and the guitar leads in this are pretty bloody good. Also James Malone is up there in terms of dual singing/shredding stakes, don't know how he can focus on both at the same time. Fully understand about the comment on blending of songs and by god are there alot of bands nowdays that that seems to run true for but i think the variety of the guitar leads especially (the drumming is much of a muchness) make each song stand out enough to differentiate. It also helps that James's singing style means his lyrics are enunciated far better than most singer.
I don't get the lack of love for this band. Arsis has always made an impression on me for their musicianship and songwriting. I just bought this album some 3 days ago and I've listened to it 6 times all ready!
I know, it's all good. This album is easily in my top 10 albums - the chorus of 'Failing Winds of Hopeless Greed' gets me everytime. Can't believe what a step up 'We are the Nightmare' is in comparison to it's less than stellar predecessors.