Review Summary: Artas' musical revolution has begun. Get over here and listen.
When dealing with musical hybrids, things can go either way for you - particularly in a genre where fans can love you and leave you with little time or reason in between the two. What can be even more irritating is that bands sometimes seem to be blurring the genre border for nothing more than sales and gimmicks. It's just a tired practise at this point. That being said, it's not every day that metal brings us a combination of - count 'em - three subgenres that not only challenges the group's technical skills, but genuinely sounds good
. That combination is the six-piece band of vigilante renegades known as Artas
, and Riotology
is their second full length album. Let me tell you, folks; it deserves a hell of a lot more renown than it has garnered.
Artas' musical procedure is tried-and-true, but keeps listeners guessing at the same time. They start out slow - atmospheric, almost - before hitting us with an uppercut of calculated thrash-death metal. This one-two approach has been used by bands like Lost Soul
and Amon Amarth
, just to name a few, and has proven extremely effective in presenting a well-executed listen. The first evidence of this approach is the fifty-nine second introductory track, "A Journey Begins". It leads straight into "Fortress of No Hope", which is clearly the second part of the one-two punch here. What makes this track so great is that, aside from a few immediate pauses, the fast pace that's established at the beginning of the track doesn't fade till the end. As this track slows down, the method rears its face again, and "The Day the Books Will Burn Again" becomes the impact of the fist in an even more powerful uppercut. The album will continue in this fashion - sometimes from track to track, sometimes several times within the same track - but it's made interesting by the fact that Riotology
is nearly a gapless album. Four languages are featured on this record, as well, adding to the variety of the sound.
Artas' song structuring show marked growth in Riotology
, and it works out extremely well for their sound. The progression in structure allows them to make an effective gapless album that feels natural. Their vocal sound can be described by many words, not the least of which is "organic". The vocals on "Rassenhass", "The Grin Behind the Mirror", and "Le Saboteur" all show us an organic, natural flow to them, and this can be found in every song on the album. While the vocals are varied, powerful, emotional, and very befitting of the theme, the instrumental work isn't as top-notch. For the most part, the guitar riffs we hear are effective at silencing all complaints, but there are times where it suffers - either from chugging, or just from lack of variation. The guitars mesh well with the drums, bass, and vocals, but occasionally feel forced and repetitive. That being said, every track goes through a few different phases, and they all have a memorable passage at one point or another. There isn't a very melodic aspect to them, so you won't find any melodious solos, but you can still learn a thing or two from the guitarplay. The drums feel powerful and natural, but slam you with a speed you'd never expect. It's an amazing feeling when the bass and guitars all smash in at the same time, and the vocals hit hard, too.
Truly, the musical impact and sound of Riotology
is unique (thanks to the fusion of the genres) and pleasing to the ear (thanks to the band's impressive sense of melody and heaviness). Two of the genres are rather self-evident from the first few tracks; these genres are death metal and thrash metal. The tertiary one is metalcore, and not just because of the occasional appearance of clean vocals. This album does feature a breakdown or two, but the most apparent metalcore influences are the varied vocals and the chugging that will come up in certain places. I won't lie; not all of the chugging is done tastefully, but it's rare enough that you can easily tell metalcore wasn't on the band's mind all that much. What was on their mind was creating an intense, fast-paced, seamless album that puts their 2009 release to shame and once again touts their name as the modern metal rebels. Riotology
is powerful in feeling, sound, and approach. It's a great effort from a great band, even if its running time is too long for its own good (68 minutes? Egad!). Artas has won me over to their musical revolution. Why don't you go listen for yourself?
2. "Fortress of No Hope"
4. "The Suffering of John Doe"
8. "The Grin Behind the Mirror"
14. "Between Poets and Murderers"