Technical death metal has always been treated as a bastard child of death metal and progressive music. Elitists shun it right away, and your average metalhead just can’t seem to get into what they term as ‘mindless wankery’. So what do you do? You try to throw in a good amount of ‘melodic’ in the mix and pray for a miracle.
Arsis tried that approach in colossal amounts on their last two albums, which was a far cry from their debut release A Celebration of Guilt that was revered both by fans & critics alike as one of the best debut albums by any band in this genre. But just like any other band, Arsis had their fair share of problems and downfalls too. Frequent lineup changes and various personal issues plagued the band, resulting in three lackluster records after their debut release. So it was quite natural that after all this, even hardcore fans were left wondering if Arsis would ever release anything again which may come close to A Celebration of Guilt.
Wonder no more. Unwelcome is here to set the record straight. This is by far the best material they’ve put out in years. No over the top technicality akin to We Are the Nightmare and no zany glam influences from Starve for the Devil, this album blends in the perfect amount of melody and technicality with Malone & co. delivering their absolute best on top of it. Rather oddly, Unwelcome marks the departure of founding member and drummer Mike Van Dyne once again. Replacing him behind the kit is Shawn Priest, who has toured alongside Arsis in ’08. Also replacing long-time standing guitarist Nick Cordle (who left the band and joined Arch Enemy) is Brandon Ellis, who filled in for Malone on tour when he fell sick.
The album opens with a very solid and riff-laden title track “Unwelcome” that serves its purpose in proving why Arsis still kick arses (ha!). The vocals are trademark Malone-style death howls which will leave you wanting for more. The underlying melodic guitar lick is what all you will be humming just after one listen into this masterpiece. The short but haunting guitar solo is quite catchy too. The next song on the album is “Carve My Cross”, which appeared before on the Lepers Caress EP. The song has been re-recorded, giving more space to the vocals this time and sounds generally more crisp. “Handbook For The Recently Deceased” is an allusion to the movie Beetlejuice, and man, does this song kills! Impeccable drumming, crazy riffs that drives straight into an arpeggio solo section which gives way to an 80’s styled big fat chorus. Talk about being influenced. “Chocking on Sand” and “Let Me Be The One” are further testimony to the right direction in which Arsis seems to be heading. Coupled with seizure-inducing riffage and equally magnificent drum and vocal work, both of these tracks do their job well in proving how solid this release really is. The well-thought and well-executed solo section on “Let Me Be The One” is one of the major highlights. Continuing their fascination with all thing 80’s, next up is Arsis’ rendition of the 1983 Corey Hart pop song “Sunglasses at Night”. With lyrics as cheesy as “I wear my sunglasses at night”, you might as well think that this is a joke song analogous to CoB cover of Britney’s “Oops I Did It Again”. But hold your horses till you actually listen to this one. This song is deliberately placed on the 6th position in the album because the band wants you to take notice of it, and not toss it away like some prank cover of a pop song. “Martyred Or Mourning” is one track which you can place on any good death metal record and it won’t feel even a bit out of place. Malone sounds particularly venomous on this track, with a good amount of guitar work going on in the background. Both the guitar solos here are spot on. Furthermore on the song, Priest proves that he indeed is an able replacement for Van Dyne. “No one Lies To The Dead” and “I Share in Shame” are both very solid, in-your-face metal tracks with a good usage of harmonies and counterpoints all over the tracks. Full marks to Malone once again for the sheer madness his vocals exhibit. The album ends with “Scornstar”, which is arguably the weakest link of the album. Though it’s an enjoyable listen, but with a record of this stature, Arsis could’ve done with a more solid ending to the album.
The production work here is stellar, except for the bass. The bass is really lacking on the whole record, but everything else is just spot on. However Unwelcome won’t be remembered as the album that broke new grounds for Arsis or the genre of music they play, but one can’t deny the fact that Malone & co. has achieved what they intended to. Recovering from all the letdowns they gave their fans in the past, Arsis has delivered a solid chunk of melodic technical death metal finesse. This is one album you won’t mind lending your ears to. Unwelcome will be welcomed by both their new and old fans alike.
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