Review Summary: Arsonists Get All The Girls return with their sophomore effort, The Game Of Life. Though the album is far from a modern metal classic, the band shows definite signs of progression and improvement.
Arsonists Get All The Girls' debut release, Hits From The Bow, was an album that garnered a lot of hate, and occasional praise, from the musical community. Complaints of the album ranged anywhere from the ridiculous song titles, and the often immature humor that came with them, to bland songwriting, sub par musicianship, and the seemingly forced use of electronic and jazz elements. The main problem with the use of jazz and electronic elements on the debut was that the band simply didn't have the songwriting ability to make these elements work properly, so it appeared as though they simply threw the elements into the songs at random intervals. It seemed as though AGTAG would just be another cookie cutter band, spawning out of the much maligned sub-genre of deathcore.
The Game Of Life still contains the electronic and jazz elements, and the sense of humor is still there, although it has been slightly refined. The thing that makes it different this go around is that the band actually seems to have used these elements to contribute to the overall cohesiveness of the songs. In fact, The Game Of Life flows surprisingly well and feels like an actual album, whereas the debut merely seemed like a collection of half baked ideas that were hastily thrown together. That being said, the band still has a bit of room for improvement.
Perhaps the most notable musical difference on the album is the vast improvement of the guitar work. While the first album seemed like a huge collection of breakdown riffs with the occasional underwhelming lead part, the guitars now actually employ the usage of riffs, proper leads, and harmonies. The bassist is actually audible for most of the album, and in a surprising twist it actually builds on the band's sound. The keyboards never really get overbearing and usually only appear during sections that benefit from them. The drumming and vocals, which were both solid on the first album, have also improved a great deal. The band uses both of their vocalists, yes there are two, in a very effective way, and they play off of each other very nicely. Both vocalists have a great range, and its also easy to distinguish one vocalist from the other for most of the album. The higher screams may be a bit off putting to some listeners however, as they can sometimes have a rather grating edge to it.
The opening track, Business In The Front, immediately throws off the childish humor from the first release. For those of you unfamiliar with Hits From The Bow, the opening song starts with a bunch of kids shouting for ice cream over the classic ice cream truck jingle, which then turns into gunshots and pandemonium. Business In The Front is a very quite intro track with echoing guitars and nothing more, so the band already shows that they have matured. Save The Castle, Screw The Princes, then fades in and opens in a way that almost resembles a slower Between The Buried And Me track, and then explodes into blastbeats and choatic screaming over a mildly technical guitar riff. The song carries on in this manner until the synths enter the picture about three minutes into it. The song then progresses into a slower section with pounding double bass a rather interesting guitar solo. The solo is interesting in the fact that it is purposefully out of tune, and I mean way out of tune, yet somehow the notes all fit together and it makes for a rather head turning ending.
Cuffed To Your Ankles starts off sounding almost like a Shadows Fall song, with the riffs and even vocals sounding eerily similar to something the aforementioned band would produce, but that is quickly thrown out the window as the song gets thrown into a rather out of tune section that chugs on about as slow as molasses (in a good way). The song contains a clean section and yet another solo, albeit a rather underwhelming one. The solo isn't technically complicated but it does add to the chilled out vibe of the songs ending section. The rest of the songs either fall into the category of slightly forgettable, or greatly enjoyable. Shoeshine For Neptune, the albums first single, is arguably the best song on here. The song showcases all of the elements the band has improved on since previously, with technical riffing, pseudo breakdowns with lightning fast arpeggios, interesting keyboard parts and guitar harmonies, and great vocal interplay and drumming. A good example of the band expounding on the jazz elements they previously attempted, and failed at, would be the intro section to 13 Year Old Ruby, which starts out as an impromptu jazz progression and morphs unexpectedly into a metal riff.
The cons on this album are largely the same as the first, but to a lesser degree. Even though the guitarists have improved a lot, they are still clearly not being used to their full potential. After listening to the ending breakdown in Shoeshine For Neptune, which contains some very hectic arpeggios, along with a few other moments of high technicality, the guitar work feels very unbalanced. Riffs are either very technical, or rather simple, and the guitarists are clearly capable of writing really interesting stuff. Also, even with the improved songwriting, some sections can tend to drag on, or feel like they popped out of nowhere for no reason at all. People may gripe about the song titles, but that's about as far as the moronic side of the humor extends. All in all, the band did a good job in approaching this with a sense of maturity and actually put in the effort to write a collection of good material, and if they progress as much on the next release as they did on this one, they have the potential to really save this failing genre.
-Two vocalists are utilized very well, and both give great performances
-All musical aspects of the band have improved
-Synth and jazz elements now actually help the songs flow
-Even though the guitars have vastly improved, it is easy to tell they are capable of so much more
-Some parts of songs still feel disjointed
-The BTBAM and Shadows Fall comparisons may lead some to feel like the band got lazy and ripped off some of their contemporaries a bit, but this only happens twice on the album
Save The Castle, Screw The Princess
Shoeshine For Neptune
Thirteen Year Old Ruby
Claiming Middle Age A Decade Early