We Are The Nightmare
posted on 4/2008 By:
Arsis are a band that need no introduction. But if I absolutely had to, at a party let's say, and I forgot your name, I would introduce them quickly as my boy Arsis '08, with personality traits Death (quite a bit), and Byzantine (quite a very little bit), and Lamb Of God (track nine exclusively), with an affinity for PCP and coffee, and then turn around and run away. You see, I've been listening to those three alot as of lately, when I wasn't doing my homework, plus I have a social anxiety disorder with a side of ADD, so don't "What the fuck?!!?!?" me. True that my "setback" has me pretty much saying anything to get me away from you at this point, but there's still a little truth in that hurried and scattered comparison. Anyway, you should already know who these poster-boys of American technical-death-metal are, and if you don't, then let me go shove my fingers down my throat. I've been at this party for a week, I drank this album about 30 times, I've obviously gotten belligerent, and I have this next paragraph to vomit out so that we can get down to business.
Not everybody on this planet could have known that Arsis took the melodic-death-metal world by tsunami when they dropped A Celebration Of Guilt back in '04, even though it seemed that way. It made 99% of critics', and the general publics', year-end-best-of lists, and then filled the number one slot on 99% of those lists. I think that even my mom put that one on her top ten along side whatever Seal album came out that year. Not really, but you get the point; surprisingly strong and consistent for a debut. Pulling at the heartstrings harder was the fact that it was the brainchild of one James Malone, who composed everything and handled all instruments aside from the drums. One year later, those saviors of the sub-sub-human race teased us with A Diamond For Disease, spawning chronic masturbatory symptoms within that ever-growing world of pretentious tech-metal-heads, AKA my address. Yeah, I live there too. I ain't knockin' it. They stepped up their game in all three of the areas that are bar-graphed above. Their teeth got sharper. If there were any non-believers left, they were mostly silenced. Of the three songs on Diamond..., there was only one new one, but that one original composition, the title track, was thirteen interesting minutes long and was written for NYC's Ballet Deviare. Welcome to the upper echelon. That's impressive, in a morbid-coffee-house kinda way, and surely gained them at least a few new fans in the upper decks. Now they've got the masses salivating for a second substantial piece of meat, so United In Regret drops in 2006. Not bad. Maybe just almost good, then. One step to the side, a half step back. I find it to be completely redundant, now. I still enjoyed it a helluva lot more a week and a half ago, before my bender with the biggest nightmare they've ever written. Many things will get left in the shadow of this.
What does We Are The Nightmare sound like..... Can I start with what this album feels like? It feels like five hundred thousand maggots and five hundred thousand baby spiders all tangled up and fighting for breathing room and nourishment inside of the one million nooks, crannies, crevices, creases, and folds of my veins, intestines, and tracts. Seriously. Nothing else in their back-catalog, or anybody's catalog really, ever gets this close to actually making me feel buried. The trip over from United into Nightmare mirrors, eerily, the transformation that Death took on from Spiritual Healing into Human, in both sound and consequence. It's a leap forward of monolithic proportions, making Malone sound like he spent the last two years deep in seance with his axe. Besides just never having lost the part of him that sounds like, well, himself (a feat no doubt), he now channels equal parts Muhammed Suicmez (Necrophagist) and Ihsahn (Emperor,etc.), making this body of work feel fragile, like a butterfly on the shoulder of a serial killer. There's grace in every swing of Nightmare's chopping spree. (Fretboard gymnasts of the current Generation Zzzzzz take note: you can dance all over the neck, but most of you are forgetting about making anything stick). These riffs here drive a nail through it, in multitudes, with purpose, and they never let up. Injected, perhaps by the newly added second guitarist, Ryan Knight (The Knife Trade), was the whole Arsis embodiment, because it just now dilated and peaked out. This is the pulse I've been waiting for. For every sickeningly precise flailing of chord progressions, there's a hammer riff waiting on the wing to pound them out. It's like the frigid mathematical schizophrenia of Necrophagist getting balanced out by the warm-bloodedness of Arsis B.C. (before catharsis). Also crucial to how this piece got twisted into form, was the entrance of new drummer Darren Cesca (ex-Burn In Silence) with the absence of first and only Arsis drummer Michael VanDyne. From a drummer's perspective, I absolutely welcome with open arms, the (pretty much never heard of previously on Arsis material) blast-beating with the kick between the snare hits. If there's one thing I grew tired of early on, it was VanDyne's extreme love of the "Suffo-blast" (named after NY death metal outfit Suffocation, who's drummer Mike Smith is credited with "inventing" the blast-beat who's snare hits are played simultaneously with the kick hits). To sum up Cesca's whole performance in short, he stabs through speakers, so very much like what Sean Reinert did for Human after Bill Andrews left us with Spiritual Healing, that it's scary. Cesca leaves Nightmare littered with fills that lock in perfectly with Malone's fretted paranoia. Not showoff-y. Premeditated. Granted, VanDyne did an admirable job, but things started to feel a bit predictable. And of course, what would all this be really, if it wasn't brought to you in part by production pristine courtesy of Zeuss (Shadows Fall, Municipal Waste). Sounds like crystal. The only thing that could feel colder, crisper, and more calculated is if you shoved fucking icicles into my ears.
You need some "highlights"? Some "key tracks"?
Buy this. Go die. Get buried.
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Starve For The Devil
United In Regret
A Diamond For Disease
A Celebration of Guilt