Review Summary: Uninspired bouts of flashy technicality mixed with a totally bland and repetitive sound. Boooooring.
I've been sitting here for the last 15 minutes just pondering. I've been wondering what people see in Arsis. I've been wondering what people see in this album.
But most of all, I've been thinking of ways to make fun of this disc. Then I realized I should just tell the truth. Rather than digging for cheap pot-shots, half-witted similes and strikingly obvious allegory, I should just say what's going on. I'm not going to go overboard to impress, that's Arsis' job.
So let's get cracking. The album is United in Regret
. Prepare yourselves for disappointment.
It's technical, it's melodic. Yes, Arsis' second full length sure seems to be pinned down by an onslaught of generic buzzwords. But there's one or two I'm seeing left out: bland and repetitive. If you hadn't caught on yet, I think this record is brutally mediocre and criminally overrated, regardless of whether it's widely acknowledged as a let down or not. Surely I must be wrong, I mean, we have two 4.5 reviews for this album, count them if you don't believe me. But I guess that's the beauty of opinions, everybody has them but they ultimately suck when they differ from mine.
But I think I'm getting ahead of myself, digging a grave I may not deserve to rest in. So let's start from the beginning.
Arsis, at the time of this album's release, was a two piece American Death Metal band. To be more specific, they're often credited as "Melodic Death Metal", though on occasion, people feel the need to toss the word "technical" into the mix. Started by James Malone and Michael Van Dyne, Arsis seemed to have it all literally from the start. A Celebration of Guilt
, their debut album, instantly pushed the band to the top of the Death Metal world. It was pretty fast, it was flashy, dense and, according to the fanatics, outstanding. I personally thought it was alright, but apparently that was just me. Regardless of whether I bought into the hype-machine or not, I still definitely saw something. Sure, the production irked me and James Malone's guitar/vocal layering definitely seemed a little overly ambitious, but I could at least see why people were digging this as heavily as they were.
And then I saw a ray of sunshine, in the form of a 3 song EP which went by the title of "A Diamond For Disease
". This is where things get a little tricky.
A Diamond For Disease
really did it for me. Though it contained only three tracks, one of which being a cover, something about the EP clicked with me, and when I say something, I mean the title track. A Diamond For Disease
was a 13 minute track that basically did what was expected; starting off with an array of guitar noodling and basically keeping it up for the remainder of the song. The main difference is that while it was most definitely a standard Arsis song, I didn't see it that way. It was, more or less, a 13 minute guitar solo. It was just as layered and dense as previous Arsis work, but never did it bother me. Sure, the vocals were still pretty horrible, but I didn't care; hearing "let's make a deal, a diamond for disease" got me every time. It's actually one of my favourite Death Metal tracks.
So naturally, I started to get a little more excited about this band. Maybe I could finally buy into these guys a little more, I mean, it was definitely nice to see an American Death Metal band that didn't fill their songs with 2 minute break downs and pig-squeals.
Then came United in Regret
To be blunt, United in Regret
is pretty bad. I mean, the cover art was really, really cool, if it was a t-shirt and totally unrelated to Arsis, I'd probably buy it. But this isn't fashion, and that ain't my passion. United in Regret
basically took everything the band accomplished with A Diamond For Disease
and slammed it to the ground. There was no progress whatsoever. Sure, there was some flashier guitar work and the drummer seemed to constantly be one-upping the guitarist, but it was pretty unnecessary. The flashy instrument work did nothing for the music. Sure, it garnered the totally unearned "technical" label, but that's about it. If you're wondering what I mean by that, I mean that a band is not technical simply because they're flashy. They're flashy because they're flashy.
But I'm getting off track now aren't I?
The band's new-found love for masturbation quantified just how disposable they really were. Sure, on occasion the extra dose of shred is welcomed with open arms, but for the majority of the album the guitar work and overly fast drumming does nothing but take away from the melodies and overall sound, and this is Melodic Death Metal, after all. This is exemplified in Lust Before the Maggots Conquest
, which honestly sounds like a rejected Slipknot album title. Lust Before the Maggots Conquest
starts off sounding like a poor man's Gorod
(who are also on Willowtip). The song just continues on, never really getting anywhere; awkward bouts of dissonance flop around sweep arpeggios and James Malone's typically atrocious vocal work. The guitar leads go on for way too long, and this is made obvious two minutes in where Malone basically repeats himself for a good 30 seconds, giving the impression that he was writing it on the fly and trying to stall. It was when I heard this that I started to actually hope for a generic-core breakdown.
And while we're on the topic of Lust Before the Maggots Conquest
, it's the fifth track on this 9 song album. It took me three tries before I could get 5 tracks in on one sitting. It's not because the album is particularly bad, because it's not. It's just really boring and really
repetitive. Arsis basically took all the best parts from their last two releases and put them on repeat for about half an hour. Sure they threw in some minor variations, but this is nothing new. The production is still terrible, too. If you're not familiar with the group's production style, let me elaborate. Take a pinch of your typical Death Metal sound; now add in a ton of distortion to give the illusion of a low-end, because even though Malone is credited as playing bass on the album, you'll have a helluva time trying to hear it. Then take one completely mediocre singer whose voice is a mix between a generic blackened scowl and a completely uninteresting death growl, and layer it twice over. Then repeat the layering technique with the guitars. Sure it's not as ridiculous as their debut, which saw as many as 6 guitar parts overlapping, but it's also not as tasteful as A Diamond For Disease
, which saw the same amount gelling beautifully. The drums sound alright, I guess. The kick drum isn't too clicky, and the snare has a nice tone, but some of the cymbals have a really odd resonating crash to them. Plus a lot of the drumming seems a little "just because"; the drummer feels the need to show off for no particular reason at seemingly random points.
I mean, Arsis is a moderately talented band. They can surely play their instruments; the problem is they're way too aware of it. The songs on this album aren't really that bad. I mean sure I would have chosen melody over technicality but, if you take the tracks as individual tracks, it's a decent outing. The problem is this is a 9 song album, and I take it as such. The songs rarely separate themselves; not only from the others on the album, but from the rest of the band's material in general. I guess the biggest fault with this album is it feels like a major step down from their EP. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not a good thing.
So maybe I'll get some flak. Maybe I just 'don't get it'. Whatever. The point is I don't think I want to get it. This album is totally bland and completely average. But the cover would
make for a pretty sweet poster.