Technical Metal music is a fun concept, as any guitar player who also listens to the genre heavily will tell you. ARSIS have had something of a revolutionary role in applying the concept to Melodic Death Metal with their amazing debut “A Celebration Of Guilt“, considering that it’s a genre more known for pounding out repetitive melodies and being something of an antithesis to the concept of technical music. Since then they’ve drifted more towards a Melodic Death variant on something that I come to call technical Chinese food Metal. It tastes real good, you often find yourself wanting more of it later on, but it doesn’t really stick with you for very long.
“We Are The Nightmare” is one of the most blatant examples of an album that can be enjoyed by just about anyone who likes Melodic Death Metal or any form of technical music from MALMSTEEN to BRAINDRILL, yet you’d likely be hard pressed to find many people who can name more than 2 or 3 songs from it based on them standing out. It’s a pure straight shot of hyper speed aggression, loaded with signature melodic hooks, and steeped with enough crazy lead fills to make John Petrucci blush. The drum work could best be described as being in a state of tight fluidity, in that each hit is spot on in a sense of rhythmic precision that Neil Peart would approve of, yet also seems blurry and loose, to the point of sounding like Mark Zonder on a fist sized crack rock, there are so many fills and changeups.
The interesting thing is that if you actually are able to cancel out all of the various instrumental fills, this sounds about akin to the formal simplicity of INTO ETERNITY’s “A Scattering Of Ashes”, albeit without the big clean sung choruses. Even songs that seem to be built entirely on lead fills and riff fragments such as “Shattering The Spell” and “Failing Winds Of Hopeless Greed” have very easily discerned structures with obvious verse and chorus sections, despite the constant barrage of lead harmonies and blast beats. The vocal work of James Malone is the only real anchor that keeps this from just being an ocean of counterpoint lines and drum calisthenics. It’s a pretty straightforward mixture of semi-whispered growls and low end Death barks, not all that different from what you’d hear out of most Gothenburg bands, but a welcomed element of simplicity within this 40 minute fit of technical overachieving.
It’s somewhat frustrating that this band can’t seem to just limit themselves to a few guitar solos per song, because almost every riff presented on here sounds good. “Progressive Entrapment” has a really solid chorus and a couple of interesting bridge section ideas, but the verse is all but completely obscured by off-the-cuff shred bursts. “Failure’s Conquest” has an excellent intro that builds up gradually into a solid verse riff, but when the chorus comes in they just load on the guitar tapping like no tomorrow and you have trouble hearing what little bottom end remains. In fact, one of the greatest weaknesses in this album’s overall sound that emerges from the overuse of the high range is a very light sound. It’s still quite aggressive and extreme sounding, but the signature and constant heaviness associated with most Metal genres just tends to come and go here.
The thing that ultimately gets lost on this album is the general concept of songwriting. The contents found on here listen more like classical etudes on electric guitar, with harsh vocals, rather than the sort of easily identified Metal song that most could instantly identify upon hearing. It’s a very fun listen, but it tends to work best in small doses. Apart from the title song “We Are The Nightmare”, “Overthrown” and “Servants To The Night” these songs tend to run together. It would be a good pickup for someone who likes BRAINDRILL’s brand of technical insanity but with a little more of a sense of slowing down and speeding up, and some actual hooks mixed in; though to most who don’t listen to Death/Grind this album would still sound incredibly fast and hard to follow. This band has done better, but there’s far worse out there.
(Online April 22, 2009)