Review Summary: Arsis deliver their best work yet. A streamlined sound and hooks galore more than make up for the occasional overplayed section on We Are the Nightmare.
Sweet horns of Satan...2008 hasn’t even hit the halfway mark yet and it’s already looking to be a golden year for death metal. Brain Drill hit us with their hyper-complex full length debut (and promptly broke up thereafter), Hate Eternal came back stronger than ever after the death of ex-bassist and close friend of frontman Erik Rutan, Jared Anderson, and Midwestern brutal death dealers Origin just released what is arguably the best album of their career in Antithesis. And now, amidst rumors of breakup, Virginian technical melodic DM prodigies Arsis have finally dropped their long awaited Nuclear Blast debut, We Are the Nightmare.
Melodeath fans be warned: While We Are the Nightmare retains some of the catchy riffing styles of Arsis’ much lauded back catalogue, this album is much more technical than either of the quartet’s full lengths or its celebrated EP. But when I say technical, I’m not talking in a wanky, Spiral Architect kind of way. No; while up-and-coming death metal guitar god James Malone doe his fair share of noodling throughout the disc, Arsis now come across as some sort of Necrophagist/Carcass hybrid, as if Epitaph came out a decade earlier and Jeff Walker blasted it for nine months straight before sitting down to write Heartwork. Just check how the overstuffed fretwork on “Overthown” leads into the catchiest chorus Mr. Malone has ever put to disc. Or how about the seamless transition from tech to hook on the opening title track? Hell, the main riff on “Servants to the Night” could easily have cropped up on the imaginary sequel to Slaughter of the Soul.
Arsis’ trademark of meld blistering solos and leads with stick-to-your-ribs riffs is as present as it’s ever been on We Are the Nightmare, and while Malone and his revolving door of musicians go out on some of their longest limbs here, it only serves to make the choruses that much more bombastic. So, fans of metal, give this one a listen. You’ll come for the flawlessly executed tapping, sweeping and other assorted geekery, but you’ll stay for those tasty refrains.