It’s no secret that I have some serious love for the melodic and technical abilities of the US’ ARSIS. With a hinting of a return to an older sound on last year’s EP “Leper’s Caress,” my excitement for the latest full length was only getting bigger by the second. Would ARSIS fully embrace their ‘wall of technical sound’ style from the first two records or would the band continue to toy with various influences, spacing, and ‘super hooks’ that made up the majority of the last couple of albums? These were the questions and contexts that made up my headspace going into “Unwelcome.”
The answer, in perhaps its simplest form, is that ARSIS is balancing both an older style and those newer techniques on their fifth album to occasionally mixed results. There is a little bit of that intense tech Death on hand, while the band is definitely focusing on still creating those ‘hooks’ that are interspersed throughout “Unwelcome.” It’s a combination similar to that on “Starve For The Devil” although not quite as tight as one would hope.
The band has not lost their ability to coat melodic technical guitar work into their skull rattling rhythms and rather intense varied drum performances that keep the album kicking at a brisk pace throughout. This is prevalent on some of the ‘older’ sounding portions of the album like the title track or the bombarding “I Share In This Shame.” Guitarist/vocalist and general ARSIS mastermind James Malone is intent on continuing to deliver the rapid fire Death Metal ferocity and classical sounding melodies/leads and that never changes here on “Unwelcome.” Long time fans are going to revel in some of its hyper speeds and flourished abilities of the very talented members.
Yet ARSIS also never loses those experimental additions that made the last two records hit or miss for fans. They still toy with spacing quite a bit, including the stop and go stuttering structure and riffs on “Scornstar,” and the hooks the band inject with their guitar work and occasional snarling vocals seem to be just as prevalent. “Handbook For The Recently Deceased” is damn near instantly memorable (beyond the awesome “Beetlejuice” reference I assume the title has) and ARSIS seems to be just as strong when slamming those hooks into their material.
The problem that generally arises with “Unwelcome” is that the balance between that older more chaos driven sound and the hook-oriented writing can be a little sporadic. We heard the same combination erupt from the speakers on the previous record and the writing and execution here on “Unwelcome” just seems a bit more mixed. This sixth record is still a strong combination from ARSIS, but we’ve heard them do it better before.
(Online April 8, 2013)