There are many ways to experience ARSIS’S brand of shred happy, technical Metal. However, the approach that I took in starting with their overly ambitious 3rd effort “We Are The Nightmare” is not recommended, in no small part because it gives a false impression of this band. If one were to go by that release, he’d assume that this band was in it largely for lead guitar showboating and seeing how many drum fills could be fit into a song while maintaining something resembling a beat. But a careful examination of “United In Regret” will reveal a band that is still very active technically, but a bit more restrained and willing to let the vocalist and the riffs do some of the talking as well.
In contrast to the album that would follow, here there is not nearly the same level of difficulty in differentiating between the riffs and the solo sections, and what emerges generally tends to resemble a series of songs rather than a 35 minute plus session of virtuosic demonstrations. Melodically tinged bruisers like “Oh The Humanity” and “I Speak Through Shadows” are loaded with plenty of crunchy, SLAYER influenced Thrash elements, while taking well timed opportunities to throw in a few blurring harmonic passages to keep the listener guessing, and enough flashy solos to make JEFF LOOMIS blush. Other songs including “The Things You Said” and “…And The Blind One Came” rely on a greater element of repetition, and although imply something of a slower and gloomier character, continually showcase this band’s clever usage of simplistic melodic ideas alongside extravagant shred riffing.
The only area where ARSIS really suffers any noticeable flaws is when they let the technical cat out of the bag too soon and allow him to run rampant even while James Malone’s blackened yet very intelligible shrieks are attempting to get the lyrics across to the listener. This particularly noticeable on “Lust Before The Maggots Conquest”, which sounds like a 3 ½ minutes of guitar soloing alongside about 1 minute of actual song. This approach could work well for the band if this were an instrumental and if there was a little more development of the 12 or 13 ideas that come and go. “The Marriage Bed” and “The Cold Resistance” are lesser offenders, and suffer more so from getting too flashy just a little too fast, leaving the listener with no real climax to look forward to after the midpoint of the song. If nothing else, all of this reaffirms the general tendency of a band’s evolution being incremental, as this approach of overdoing the lead work was the primary thing that hurt “We Are The Nightmare” as an album.
In spite of being a bit too fancy for the average fan of Death Metal, ARSIS has put together a pretty solid album here that will treat fans of the likes of BRAINDRILL and DECREPIT BIRTH pretty well. It’s a more exciting an animated alternative to the traditional crop still putting out orthodox albums in the melodic Death style in the Gothenburg scene. But those who want the zenith of this band’s current body of work are encouraged to go back to “A Celebration Of Guilt”, which showcases the band with their keenest sense for putting songwriting first, although still keeping the flash and flair at a close second, followed by the still measured and well realized “A Diamond For Disease”.
(Online May 29, 2010)