Review Summary: Virginia's Arsis step up the melody and lower the technical aspects of their music.
Technical death metal band Arsis have returned this year with their new album Starve For The Devil
. As it turns out, the title is actually a reference to guitarist James Malone’s battle with anorexia, and as such, some of the lyrics from this year’s outing deviate into the topic of his personal battles--see 80s-styled “Forced To Rock”, “From Soulless to Shattered (Art of Dying)”, or highlight “Beyond Forlorn”. Sonically speaking, however, the Virginians are probably going to delight, as well as aggravate, a number of their fans with this new album. While impressive leads and guitar solos return from guitar heroes James and Nick Cordle, the technical landscapes of 2004’s A Celebration of Guilt
and the band's later releases are noticeably missing from the mix this time out. In their place, Arsis have thrown in a blackened-esque thrash element as a special surprise for fans. Suffice it to say, it sounds like the band have traveled back in time twenty years to craft this album.
I’m not going to criticize the band for their sudden change in agenda; however, I am going to critique how well it works out in a sound recording. Whereas, in the past, technical death metal, with a bit of melody thrown in, ruled the day for Arsis, it seems these two elements of their sound have been switched around in relation to their ratios in the sound mix. Sing-a-longs are now in full play, which can be good, I suppose, and when guitar solos do happen to turn up--see finale “Sable Rising” or the fret spinner on “Sick Perfection” for excellent examples--they tend to be more enjoyable since there isn’t as many of them this time around, and they're not as long in their length, to saturate the music.
The main problem with Starve For The Devil
comes in the way of laughable lyrics that, while not terrible for most extreme forms of metal, when coupled with a heavy dose of melody, causes listeners to laugh a bit too much when they should be head-banging away. Take for instance “Forced to Rock” where Mr. Malone gives us his best, power metal impression: ’Forced to rock! Rebellion, rebellion / In the name of Devil, starve / To embrace our sins with all we are / In the name of Satan, we are forced to rock!’
. You might want to cut out the 80s hard rock, Arsis. If I ever feel the urge to go listen to AC/DC or Black Sabbath, I’ll just go digging through my dad’s album collection. Also, the abundance of ‘starving’ references quickly where’s thin
--’A march for the sick, starving for control’
, ’A starving withered statue’
, ’The starving statue’
, ’Let’s starve for the Devil’
, and so on and so on throughout the album. Once again, this wouldn’t matter so much if the lyrics were featured on Arsis’ previous offerings, but given the increased melodic tendencies of the music and an overall catchy nature, the monotony stands out as a prevalent sore on Starve For the Devil
that one just can't ignore.
So we have laughable lyrics, a downsizing in the technicality of the music, and a gob of catchy melodies? I’m not entirely convinced that this is the best route for Arsis to take in their musical career. Given that 2008’s We Are The Nightmare
was seen by many as a dragging and monotonous affair, it just feels like the band are throwing in the towel, and, heaven forbid, selling out as well. On the other hand, dragging and mindless guitar wankery are mostly absent from Starve For The Devil
--hence the lowered level of technical guitar playing--so, in a way, the band are actually improving by regressing. It is for this reason that you could say that Starve For The Devil
is a fresh, new step for Virginia’s Arsis. As history has revealed, when bands take a new directions like this, they often don't hit it right the first time, and as such, Arsis clearly have some areas to work on in the future. However, one can't deny the catchiest of this album. Who knows? If this is your type of thing, you might actually be left starving
for more once Starving For The Devil
comes to a close.