Review Summary: Database crashes suck. This album definitely doesn't though.
Let’s face it – Even Arsis fans were at least a little bit disappointed by their last album, United In Regret
. I still enjoy the album from time to time, but it’s very easy to pick out what went wrong with the 2006 LP. The mixing was poor, James’ vocals weren’t as good as they had been on past recordings, and the overall songwriting didn’t seem as memorable. Sure, the guitar playing was top-notch, but we’d heard Malone and company do much better on their highly acclaimed EP, A Diamond For Disease
. The only song from United In Regret
that I think will stick with Arsis throughout their career will be “The Cold Resistance”. Lots of people wrote off the band and assumed that they wouldn’t top what their first two releases had done. I don’t want to go ahead and say that We Are the Nightmare
tops their near-flawless debut, A Celebration of Guilt
, but damn does it come close.
Arsis is no longer the two man project that it once was. James Malone is now joined by musicians Ryan Knight, Noah Martin and Darren Cesca behind him on guitar, bass, and drums respectively. When I first heard that every member contributed to writing We Are the Nightmare
rather than just James, I was a bit hesitant mostly because I loved A Celebration of Guilt
so much. The addition of the new rhythm section as well as Ryan Knight’s songwriting has really helped the band escape the grave that many listeners feel they dug for themselves. Knight’s new songwriting on songs like “Sightless Wisdom”, which he wrote all himself, shows a new, catchier side to Arsis, while still maintaining the insane tap-sweep shred that should impress almost anyone. While they don’t sound anything alike, you could draw the comparison of what happened to Protest the Hero between Kezia
While this album stays rooted in the trademark Arsis sound, the album’s ten menacing tracks don’t mind jumping genres every few minutes or so. “We Are the Nightmare” starts off soft, jumps into a melodic black-metal riffage ala Satyricon’s Nemesis Divina
, which eventually goes to a chorus that you might expect someone like Shadows Fall to play. “Servants to the Night” plays around with a rockin’-good chorus in between the technical death metal parts. And “Failure’s Conquest” starts with a huge, open-chord intro right before entering what could be the most epic guitar solo on the whole album.
But fear not! The technical/melodic death metal hybrid that Arsis usually plays is in full force here. “Shattering the Spell” is a prime example, which sounds like Necrophagist on crack with an added super-catchy part a minute into the song. “A Feast for the Liar’s Tongue” is probably the band’s fastest song to date and refuses to let up the entire time thanks to Cesca’s incredibly fast blast beats and double bass work. The opening riff to “Progressive Entrapment” is quite the headbanger, containing that heavy punch death metal is known for. These are just a handful of examples, but We Are the Nightmare
is Arsis’ most dynamic and fun album to date. The songs branch off and touch different genres, yet at the same time still stay rooted in Arsis’ trademarked sound.
Even with the newly added musicians, Malone still remains the focal point of Arsis. It’s impossible to listen to this album without noticing how damn good of a guitarist he really is, whether it’s the legato licks in the verses of “Shattering the Spell” or the opening leads to “Failing Winds of Hopeless Greed”. The riffs are also twice as impressive knowing that James does vocals over them live. While the Malone praise is certainly warranted, Ryan Knight still gives one hell of a performance too. Knight takes several solos throughout and flawlessly tackles some of the song’s more challenging riffs and leads. Malone’s vocals are also back in full force on here and sound much more full than they did on United In Regret
. Cesca’s low growls are also a nice compliment in songs like “Progressive Entrapment” and “Shattering the Spell”.
The bass and drums are what I’m sure many listeners of this album would gripe about… myself included. Noah Martin is a great bassist (if you don’t believe me, listen to the band Suspyre), but the bass is barely audible throughout the album. The only time that he’s even just a bit noticeable is during “Shattering the Spell” where he mimics the guitars in their tapping insanity. It’s a real treat when you can hear it, but it only comes in little bursts that can’t be heard well. Darren Cesca, while clearly being faster and more talented than Mike Van Dyne, can be a bit annoying at times. The prime example of this is in the song “Overthrown”, which could very well be the best song on the album. The intro starts off great, but then Cesca places an odd, stuttered 16th/32nd note combination over the guitars, which ends up sounding like he’s messing up rather than playing something difficult. The snare drum is also very loud in the mix, so the blast beats can sometimes detract from the guitars and vocals.
Overall, We Are the Nightmare
just screams success. Arsis is back with their most accessible and musically impressive album yet. I’m scared to say that this is better than A Celebration of Guilt
, but with time who knows?
A Feast for the Liar’s Tongue
Shattering the Spell