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Arsis impressively assemble music that uses all of the tools available to them on this album. Stylistically, it's a blend of some styles - technical death metal, melodic death metal, and neo-thrash - that are often complacent and self-indulging, focusing on their defining traits rather than making good music. All of these traits are used as tools, rather than focal points. The performances are top-notch and the songwriting is excellent.
The songwriting highlights the use of hooks, melodic and rhythmic, all over the place. Catchy parts recur and will be remembered before the section is over, and certainly before the song is over. The album is pretty much aggressive throughout, but it manages some sense of dynamics within there, with emotive vocals and the drums and guitars sometimes leaving a bit of space to breathe in the production, and at other times getting close to being a wall of sound, especially when the drums are going heavy on the cymbals.
The rhythmic work is impressive in its own right. The drummer utilizes basic blasts and double bass patterns, but continually mixes them up with syncopated patterns and fills or alternate beats that pair up perfectly with the guitars. The fills themselves are very nice, and the placement is masterful, using them not only at the ends of a line or section, but often in the middle or at the beginning, which adds another sense of dynamics and variation. The guitar work is very conscious of the drumming, having two parts that change between lead and rhythm type parts, syncopate and align precisely, and go between thick power chord riffs and thinner leads that shine rather than bludgeon. The vocals are another tool used to insert rhythmic hooks, providing entirely different rhythmic patterns from the instruments, something uncommon in bands where an instrumentalist handles vocals.
Melody is used very precisely by Arsis - while it is common for melodic death metal bands to let the music be dominated by simple harmonies of thirds, string skipping riffs, and add chords, Arsis blend them together to the point where one never dominates a song, and rarely a section. Most of the riffs and lines manage to blend multiple techniques seamlessly, making the music much more interesting and less bland (or generic, if you wish). The focus is shifted between melody and harmony very actively, rather than letting one be the focal point of entire sections or songs.
The most impressive quality of the technicality on this album is that it is never the focal point, other than in a few guitar solos. The music is simplifies at times, and the brilliance of the musicians is a tool used to craft complex music. There's no wankery that sounds like it belongs in an instructional video, it's music that sounds like music with a lot going on (because a lot is going on). This music is a very strong contrast to other music that shares many of the main traits - there aren't full sections that rely on one-dimensional one-style riffs as melodic death metal often has, there isn't syncopation for the sake of syncopation or high-speed blasting for the sake of speed as technical death metal often has.
A few other parts of the album should be mentioned - the bass playing is basic and supportive of the guitars, which works really well with so much emphasis on the guitars. The lyrics are sharp and bitter, matching the vocal style. The production is balanced and it is well mixed, but not polished. The guitars crunch, the vocals bite, and the drum sound is great and captures both the hard-hitting and slightly dynamic nature of the drumming.
Arsis mix a lot of things that people like about metal in a unique and very listenable way. The rough edge of the production translates aggressiveness well, and the clarity allows the songwriting to shine. There are tons of hooks which work into the songs without an overtly pop-ish sound, but they don't give up any of the fierce metallic sound. Most importantly, it leaves behind many of the undesirable and stagnant traits of the styles that are blended so well.
This will probably always be Arsis' best album. While they would go on to be more technical, and establish quite a decent sized fan-base A Celebration of Guilt, is one; what earned them said fan-base, and two; the finest example of the bands vision.
Right up there with Anata and Gorod, Arsis play the kind of technical death metal that I actually have time for. If you read my review for Anata's The Infernal Depths of Hatred you'll see that a lot of what I'd said there rings kind of true here, albeit to a slightly lesser extent. As with early Anata, early Arsis avoided all the pitfalls that would latter almost ruin them cough..We Are the Shitemare..cough... Excuse me. Yes, A Celebration of Guilt is devoid of the ADHD technical death metal spasm's the band would later fall victim to. In place of that is a collection of good to brilliant riffs, as well as good to brilliant songs.
Tracks such as "Maddening Disdain", "Return" and "The Sadistic Motives Behind Be" show Arsis at their absolute finest. The band had a nice approach to showing their melodic shades, and again utilized this in a similar manner to Anata. What makes A Celebration of Guilt so much fun are the riffs, and these are well constructed, and well thought out. Restraint was James' best friend and it's a shame he threw it out of the window later in his career. Even his leads are quite tasteful, with good employment of tapping techniques, and nary a sweep pick in sight.
There isn't much left to say on Arisis' debut, to be fair its pretty much the only album you need by this band (although Starve for the Devil was a great change in direction), and I would say this is essential to technical death metal fans. Especially those who think the style starts and ends with shit like Necrophagist and We Are the Shitemare... or worse Dying Fetus (shudders).
We all know that melodic death metal is best known for being a fine product of sweden and therefor most of the great bands are from sweden like At the Gates, In Flames, Amon Amarth, etc. But there are a hand full of great melodic death metal bands from the US like The Absence, Vehemance and my favorite melodic death metal band of all time Arsis. A Celebration of Guilt is eleven tracks of pure power and emotion and any fan of metal in any form should have this album.
In the small amount of time between there formation and the release of this masterpiece (they were signed to willowtip after there fifth show) Arsis managed to create a sound that balanced out elements of technical death metal, melodic death metal, and thrash and throughout this album you can hear all elements clearly. Another thing about Arsis the attracted me to there music is the lyrical content of their songs. Many of the lyrics in their song come from the brilliant mind of singer/lead guitarist James Malone who also composes almost all of the music by Arsis. For those who are not familiar with James he has dealt with depression problems his whole life and has gone through alchoholism and losing one-hundred pounds in four months due to anorexia. Needless to say many of the lyrics in Arsis songs deal with his own problems in life.
This album opens up with the track "The Face of my Innocence" which is an extremely catchy and very technical and contains although very short god like solo. In my opinion the second track "Maddening Disdain" is the stand out track of this album for containing a great amount of catchy thrash style riffs and tons of vocal hooks in James Malone's Dimmu Borgir style voice. Truly though none of the songs on this album pass by without notice as each one of them is catchy, extremely well-written, and contain a killer solo by James. My vote for best solo on this album would be the solo on the track "The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letter".
In addition to James the other member of Arsis who is more or less a staple of the band is the drummer on this album Mike Van Dyne who had quit the band to finish college and get a degree but now he is back with Arsis and there new album "Starve for the Devil" due out in february 2010 is shaping up to be a kickass death metal album. Overall I gave this album a perfect score because this album changed the way I look at the whole genre of death metal and completely changed the way I write music and I hope people who read this review go buy the album and have it effect them the way it did me.
"The Face of my Innocence"
"Carnal ways to Recreate the Heart"
"The sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letter"
It is a shame I didn't get into this type of music any sooner than just two years ago, because this album is absolutely flooring. It has everything you could ask for: technicality, melody, intensity, brutality. At the time, just two musicians who knew that could make it in the community of tech death. Multi-instrumental talent, and showing that skill in your own album that will soon become a milestone, is something I now hold in high regard.
I am extremely happy that I got this album, and hearing of this band and their excellent and very skillful musicianship. This is music that must not be looked ahead of. Simply because of its sound and originality. The sound, by the way, is something that was not tampered with by studio magic, which is being used by a lot of bands lately. Being technical for the sake of being technical does not make a band talented. It is the fusion of technicality and melody that is written proportionately, and without abuse. Qualities that Arsis have mastered; leaving to the true profession of other challenging musicians that have managed to succeed in their own way.
While on the subject of the beloved profession of musicianship, these are two musicians whose writing, recording and production were well-thought out and took time mastering for this album. Probably the highlight of the album is that these guys know their roots to begin with. For instance, Malone's vocal and guitar (for both rhythm and lead) mastery is utmost satisfactory, and his playing is left to be heard raw in this release of phenomena. As is the drumming of Van Dyne; how it is absolutely refreshing to here a drummer whose double bass is not triggered in technical metal, and whose chops, rolls, blasts, fills are precise and mix very well with the technical and [at times] Scandinavian-esque overtone of melody that Arsis are best known for.
Arsis set themselves up for future disappointments here. They really set a standard so high that Malone and co. wouldn't have a chance of ever topping this.
This album represents a synthesis of great but not overdone production, outstanding performances, and classic, killer, and searing riffs that synergizes to create a crushing, brutal, and fearless slab of metal. It doesn't need a title like "death metal" or "melodic death metal" or "tech death" or "blackened death" because none convey the timelessness of this -- It's relevant to the metal scene as a whole, not just the death metal scene, or the larger "extreme metal" scene.
James Malone succeeds here because he sticks with riffs that essentially work; someone more familiar with their later stuff may note that it is much simpler than later works. That's because Malone was smart enough to keep this uncluttered, with just enough technicality to turn ordinary melodeath into the crushing and stomping metal maelstrom that it is. Simplicity, and this is a relative term, because this shit is far from simple, but anyways, simplicity helps A Celebration of Guilt. There's a far lesser need to outdo the competition, and more of a concern about writing no-bull crushing american death metal. And because it's american, expect a heavy thrash influence to seep in. This is not lamely done european melodeath, this is crushing american death metal that happens to be melodic. And because it's melodic, expect several sweep arpeggios, which are tastefully used here, unlike on United in Regret or We Are the Nightmare.
The drumming, as well, is more acoustic sounding and a hell of a lot less triggered sounding than every subsequent album. Likewise, the drum performance is a lot cleaner and less cluttered. Akin to the strategy used by bandmate Malone, drummer Michael Van Dyne sticks to ideas that essentially work. For that reason, his drum performance has a lot more of an impact, since it's not 24/7 200 mph.
I'd recommend this to practically any metalhead. It's a great album, a classic that came out of the cuts and surprised everybody. Too bad Arsis have degraded into tech death wankery nowadays.
I will begin this review by stating that Arsis’ A Celebration of Guilt is the best debut album that I have heard. It is simply that good, without qualification. Never before has a new band unleashed an album this strong on their first attempt; it is almost unheard of. Now, I will explain to you why I feel this album is so strong.
To begin with the actual instrument performances, they are astounding. The level of energy displayed in the lead-guitar and drums is at maximum, keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time. The riffs are simply ferocious and devastating, and will have you headbanging like crazy, without a doubt. From the moment the opener The Face of My Innocence starts with its bizarre techno-shredding, and then segues into fast paced and horrifying death-metal, you know you have something special. Arsis keeps the speed at maximum for basically the whole album, without pause to give you a break. If there is one criticism of instrumentation, it is that the bass is mostly inaudible, but that is pretty much a given at this point in metal.
In terms of sound, I would classify Arsis as an admixture of different death metal styles, with melodic and technical parts in various combinations. However, the vocals are raspy black-metal style, so that will throw you for a loop. But, you can pretty much consider this a death-metal release. Songs such as Maddening Disdain and Dust and Guilt are among my favorites, delivering high-speed brutal riffs and inducing extreme headbanging. But that isn’t to say that the other songs aren’t good; indeed, this album is one of the few that delivers complete satisfaction on all fronts. Other standouts include the brutal The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters and the insane Wholly Night (an excellent closer, I like when a band ends strong instead of whimpering out with an album). All the songs on this album are simply spectacular, and deserve many, many repeated listens.
Therefore I give my highest recommendation to Arsis’ A Celebration of Guilt. When it comes to death-metal, these guys have added themselves as serious contenders in the genre. Buy this album. There is but one downside to the high level of quality of this music: there is simply no way it can be topped by the band, ever. Pretty much every single album after this one will be a disappointment, because you will be expecting something to top A Celebration of Guilt, which is impossible to defeat. This is pretty much true if you’ve heard the second album United in Regret, and leaves me fearing disappointment again with their third album. Don’t let that discourage you from acquiring their best, first album though. Commence depravity, NOW.
This album has it all, sound, talent, speed, intensity, rawness. It’s a raging bloodshed from start to end. After too many listens I still go through those 45 minutes of music at least once a week. Arsis, strangely, are offering one, if not the most accomplished work of melodic death metal ever seen.
Strangely indeed because these guys are not from Gothenburg, nor Oslo, not even Stockholm. They’re from the States. These guys are actually coming from a country I’ve shun for many years in terms of metal. Then again, this very difference is probably what made A Celebration of Guilt such a strong release. The band genre is evidently melodic death BUT there is also another genre that is reflected through their intense and numerous riffs and that style is the very essence of American underground music: thrash metal. Arsis has a thrash influence, the sound, the solos; some of the songwriting in this album could be linked to the more “American” sounding metal. This very difference gives the album a level of intensity we never see in any Swedish or Norwegian melodic death bands. Why? Because after the arrival of the Triumvirate of the genre that is Dark Tranquillity, In Flames and At the Gates, all the following wannabe bands thought that in order to be melodic you had to have acoustic guitar parts. Thus, every modern melodic death band plays some sort of diluted, passionless and unimaginative “metal”, adding some random acoustic guitars here and there, convinced that this will make them sound great. Allow me to be disgusted for an instant while I think of this ocean of boredom.
However, Arsis, nearly ten years after the release of The Gallery and Whoracle proved all these inbred followers that passion, not imitation is the key. No acoustics, no breaks, no slowdowns. With A Celebration of Guilt, you enter a battlefield and kill everything in your way without looking back, without remorse. It’s a three-quarter of an hour massacre. Arsis played melodic death their way. In-your-face, kick him while he’s down way. This album has all the attitude of a good ol’ Pantera release which is displayed with a very European-influenced musicality.
But just you wait, it gets even better. So Arsis plays with more intensity, without slowing down and with a very high level of melody. And they do that with great talent and speed. Yes, these guys, these two guys, offer great performances. The drums are tight, intense, well-thought. Maybe a bit overwhelming and there is indeed some level of abuse regarding the double pedal bashing but still, all the more reasons to head bang until you behead yourself…Guitars, well, they’re just great, and all played by the honorable James Malone. This guy is giving a performance of a lifetime on that album. Every song has at least one riff that will get stuck in the listener’s head for at least a couple of days and although treading the known path of melodic death, he still shows us new ways of walking it. Many solos, mostly short but still very fast-paced, lots of tapping and all that. The solos are good, just not Judas Priest good. Finally, our friend Malone is also the singer and I swear, this guy sings passionately and he’s angry. You can tell this man is enraged, frustrated and truly feeling his songs of hatred, disillusion and wrath. He gives a performance I’ve only seen equaled by Valfar, Mikael Stanne and John Nödtveidt.
Overall, I would say that this is the best metal album of 2004, a pillar of melodic death and a reference in intensity for all the upcoming bands out there that dare say they can play metal. My highlights of the album are The Face of My Innocence, Maddening Disdain, Worship Depraved and Wholly Night.
People react differently upon hearing the word melody. Some embrace it and enjoy hearing catchy melodies. Other people argue that melody should only be used for atmospheric purposes and as strictly a form of expression rather than just ear candy. On A Celebration of Guilt, Arsis manage to somehow do both. Arsis manage to be instantly catchy and pleasing upon first listen, but yet are intricate enough for a long lasting impact.
Melodies are used splendidly throughout, sometimes sounding elegant, sometimes perverse, and sometimes just reek pure savage destruction, and at some points they even sound filled with anguish. Excellent guitar playing skill is what creates these awesome melodies. In fact, guitarist James Malone may very well be one of the most skilled guitarists around. His ability to shred, construct riffs, and more importantly, compose can be regarded as impeccable. Riffs vary in sonic texture, often times with consistent shifts in direction or feel. The songs themselves seem to have their own mini-movements within. Each song is readily identifiable because of the catchy melodies in each movement . Each movement has their own identity, which may be a single riff or a collection thereof. The end result is richly varied compositions that never lapse into boredom.
Drumming is certainly adequate as well. Often the drumming provides one hell of a blistering rhythm backing that simply thunders loudly and is fast paced throughout. Crushing double bass and pulsating blasts, and of course the occasional tricky fills, are handled with immense ability and spectacular precision.
What is also interesting about this album is the song structures. They are not completely overblown so that it will overwhelm the listener, but they are also not simplistic at all. They are somewhat recursive, but they never fall into the trap of being cyclical. They merely repeat certain riffs whenever they need to be. It is clear that Arsis carefully restrained themselves in order to prevent irritating wank sections. They were also aware enough as to never allow the songs to become predictable.
This album is not without its flaws, however. There are certain melodies that seemed sappy enough to warrant a cheese slice. Regardless, the musicians of Arsis simply never let down the intense battering for even a few seconds. From the very beginning the brutality never ceases until the last stomp of the closing track. One heavy track just followed by another savage track until the very end. Arsis have certainly carved their signature sound on this stunning debut, It will not be surprising at all if this is to be hailed as a classic. Classic not because only of its unique usage of melody, but also because they finally gave a shot of much needed brutal adrenaline into the veins of Melodic Death Metal. This is how Melodic Death Metal should be played: fast, agile, elegant and aggressive and destructive. It is highly recommended to pick this up. By not picking this up you are just simply missing out on a great album.
How often are you pleasantly surprised when you listen to music for the first time? Not very often if you're somebody like me. For the most part, it takes me a couple listens to get into the music I listen to. Only a select few albums have blown me away upon first listen. The albums found among this, for lack of better term, "elite group" include none other than Judas Priest's Painkiller, Gamma Ray's Land of the Free, Kiuas' The Spirit of Ukko, In Flames' The Jester Race, and of course, both of Arsis' full length releases, A Celebration of Guilt and United in Regret. A Celebration of Guilt, the band's first album, shocked the metal world, seemingly coming from nowhere. The 11 track effort has been met with praise, praise, and well, more praise. But does the melodic death metal band's debut effort deserve that many positive reviews and comments? Is A Celebration of Guilt that good? My dear readers, the only appropriate response would be "yes, and then some."
Arsis' can best be described using the term extreme metal. Though they are most definitely a melodic death metal band, there is a definite thrash and black metal influence found in their music. The violent nature of both genres (as well as in death metal, obviously) plays quite a prominent role in the foundation of the music on A Celebration of Guilt, yet never do these chaotic overtones feel excessive or unneeded. One can point to any track, whether it be the opener, Face of My Innocence, Return, or Looking for Nothing, and find the uncontested amounts of brutality that one would expect from in a death metal band. But we can't forget the melodic side of Arsis, for it too makes the listener quite aware. Considering the heaviness of the album, it's quite amazing how guitarist/vocalist/bassist James Malone manages to incorporate any melody into the music. Of Arsis' two full length albums, A Celebration of Guilt easily contains more melodic moments, and while it isn't quite as melodic as In Flames' The Jester Race, it still uses this musical aspect to its fullest extent. Songs such as Maddening Disdain and Seven Whispers Fell Silent both stress this element in their respective structures and both succeed in drawing listeners in through their shockingly infectious combination of aggression and melody. Arsis is quite the competent band, musically, and you'll likely have a difficult time finding someone who finds something to dislike about the musical qualities in the band's music.
Another aspect of the album I quite like is the production. While you would think that a record recorded by a two man band would have sound quality, Arsis would be an exception. Though it definitely doesn't have the same quality as a bigger band with more to spend, the production levels are still very appropriate for the band. Everything is quite well put together and easy to hear, whether it be the shrieks and growls of James Malone, the wailing harmonies, or the ferocious drumming of Mike van Dyne. Fans of this genre really couldn't ask for much more, especially considering the band's age, as it gets the job done quite efficiently. And finally, through the concise, dark tracks, it is also evident that the duo had put quite a bit of effort into the album. Even through repeated listening, none of the songs grow stale or tiring. Each of the LP's exquisite elements likely helped mould this outcome. Nearly every aspect, be it technical soloing, thunderous drumming, or the chaotic growling, is of equal importance, or so Arsis would have you believe. As one would listen to A Celebration of Guilt, it becomes quite obvious that everything from the guitar to even the lyrical content (probably the weakest link of the Arsis attack) is quite inspired and was heavily worked on. There are no real complaints in this area, as Arsis seems to have done its best to maintain the consistency in nearly every aspect throughout its debut album.
While many seem torn over Arsis' latest album, United in Regret, most seem to be able to agree that A Celebration of Guilt is one hell of an album. Chock-full of aggressive riffs and solos; melodic harmonies, interludes, and other musical passages which find themselves entwined within the band's tracks; harsh, guttural screaming; A Celebration of Guilt is quite a good album for both new and old fans of extreme metal. Both original and potent, the American melodic death metallers effectively bridge the gap between the likes of melo-death, death, thrash, and black metal to create a memorable album of which almost metal head could get into. If you're lucky enough to find this in your local record shop, do no hesitate to pick it up, as it is definitely a worthy investment.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)
I'll cut to the important part here. This is, by far, the best debut album I have heard from any band from any genre. Arsis completely surprised everyone with this. From that insane intro to "The Face of my Innocence", to the tear-through-your-skin riffs in "Wholly Night", this entire album takes you on a ride you'll want to go on again and again.
The drumming on this album is perfect. Some death metal drummers tend to go blast beat crazy and annoy me. The drumming on this album is not obnoxious, yet it remains energetic, powerful, fast, and SUITABLE for the music. "Worship Depraved" has the best drumming on the album (check out that ending).
The riffs will tear you apart, most are usually fast at a high BPM following those insane drums that I mentioned earlier. With the screamed, typically high pitched vocals on top of the riffs and drums, it is like Arsis is pouring all of their hatred and emotion onto a plate.
The production is tolerable, but not as good as the other Arsis recordings, which is understandable due to this being their debut album.
For 2004, this is some insanely original stuff. If you're into Death, At the Gates, Kreator, Sodom, or basically ANY METAL, you will love this as much as I do. Possibly one of the greatest albums recorded.
Highlights: The Face of my Innocence, Worship Depraved, The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters, Return
I must admit, the melodic death metal scene has faded over the past years. North American bands tried to make an attempt at melodic death with such bands as Thine Eyes Bleed while Gothenburg bands slowly slid into redundancy. Nothing really shot out and caught attention with a new style or creativity.
Enter Arsis, the American melodic death phenominon that completely dominates anything relating to melodic death metal. Arsis is not just another boring melodeath band, they are completely new. The bring a view of melodic death that has never been done before. The music is lightning fast, fucking brutal, and tech enough to make Necrophagist sweat. There has never been a melodic death band as extreme or as unique as Arsis.
This band manages to bring together everything that I could possibly want in a melodic death band. The drums flow beautifully and have a pristine accuracy. That's nothing to ignore considering the speed of Mike Van Dyne's double bass and blast beats. This guy never gets repetitive or bland with his drumming and easily hold together that forceful punch behind the music. The guitars are where the music really shines. It is clear that Jim is very well trained. The riffs are fast and throw around insane palm muting and pinch harmonics like they're nothing. He often uses multiple guitar layering to create the most incredible guitar harmonies as well. Almost every solo is done by two guitars simultaniously, and almost every song features a different and memorable guitar melody. Quite simply, the guitar playing here is incredible. Brutal riffs, crazy shredding, and memorable melodies yield nothing less then perfection.
Even the vocals and lyrics are everything I could want. Jim has a very high shriek, one that would not be out of place in black metal. He switched seemlessy from the high scream to a low growl, both of which keep the music firmly rooted in death metal. His lyrics are based upon death, sickness, love, among other things. Reading through them I noticed that they are very dark, something that accents the music perfectly.
Overall, A Celebration of Guilt is one of the best debut albums I've ever heard. While songs like The Face of My Innocence and Maddening Disdain cause neck injury from excessive headbanging, Wholly Night andWorship Depraved bring forth sad yet beautiful melodies. Arsis has mastered the finest points of melodic death metal and created the most potent sound I've ever heard. Every metalhead can relate to some aspect of Arsis, as they combine all kinds of elements. The only drawback I've seen from them so far is that they've only released one single album.
On the one hand, times have changed, and on the other hand, the more things change the more they stay the same, and since neither metal bands nor their fans seem eager to give up entirely on tradition, older styles of metal keep getting fresh coats of paint. Had this album been released fifteen years or so ago with a different singer, slower drums, and without all the guitar squeals and tremolo, it probably would’ve been labeled thrash or just heavy metal without much of a second thought. If it had higher-pitched vocals, backing keys, and the band wore dopey makeup and sang songs about the Devil, we’d call it “melodic black metal”. As it stands, the vocals are mid-range growls, tremolo is present (but used sparingly), the drums are fast but not outright blasting… and so, “melodic death metal” it is.
I use the term by convention, naturally, as I can’t imagine straight death metal being a primary influence on these guys. Well, whatever…
But anyhow, as you might have guessed, this is probably going to remind you of what’s been coming out of Gothenburg for what, almost a full decade now? – or perhaps Heartwork-era Carcass or the last two Death albums. I think I could’ve pegged this band’s origin without having been told, as there’s something about this music that sounds distinctly American to me – it’s far more aggressive than most comparable Swedish bands, and the band’s melodic style thankfully wanders away from working through every possible permutation of the guitar leads in “Infinite Dreams”, sometimes wandering into slightly experimental or technical territory. Observe in particular the weird warbley riff that kicks off the very first song, which is probably my favorite moment on the entire album. Thankfully, there’s no metalcore here, as opposed to much of the current wave of American bands, and there are no cutesy stabs at novelty. Only metal.
It’s the sort of album that tends to provoke comments like: “this is music that will appeal to every kind of metalhead”. I never could figure out how that was a compliment – it’s a hair away from saying the music’s middle-of-the-road or pedestrian. Frankly, I’d rather listen to something that would piss off most metalheads. Why come this far just to look back? This is straight-up riff-oriented metal modernized and re-imagined for the twenty-first century, a very competently made statistical mean of all the newer interpretations of the heavy metal sound – for better or worse. It doesn’t fail at its goal, but I can’t say it does much for me.
Pop this CD into your player and the first thing you will hear is Mike Van Dyne cascading effortinglessly through a wave of drumming leading up to James Malone's virtuosic opening riff. Without giving you time to recover from this initial show of skill, mike dives furiously into blast beats while james continues his guitar and bass onslaught. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album. James also contributes the vocals which range from a mid DM growl an excellent black metal-like screech. The standout tracks are as follows: The opening track "The Face of my Innocence" has a great mix of stlyes, from driving double bass and blast beats to a great melodic solo and outro. The second track "Maddening Disdain" is a sololess and ferocious thrash/death fest with riffs that will leave you reeling. The fifth track, the catchiest in my opinion, opens with a great semi-melodic riff and ends with a blazing solo. The ninth starts off decently but has a completely ass kicking intulude about 1:20 in following by an insane solo. My only complaints are that some songs drag one too many repetitions out of the riffs, thought good as they may be. Also, at times mike can get to so crazy he will just fill his way though a riff. However these are the only complaints I could sqeeze out of this album, and I really had to give it a lot of listens before I could give my final judgement.
A band as good as Arsis does not come around very often, as you can see by the reviews that have been posted here and abroad. To think that all this material was recorded by only two individuals is even more mindboggling. James Malone, whom I must compare to Alexi from bodom because they are both among the elite few that can handle lead guitar and vocals at the same time, absolutly destroys on this album. The solos, riff writing, vocals, its all top notch and all accomplished by him. While I could not pick up any fancy work on the bass end, this was also done by James and to keep up with the guitar riffs must take some skill. Not forgetting mike, he rips on the drums throughout the entire album, with awesome blast beats and double bass and jaw dropping precision. Bottom line: buy A Celebration of Guilt, you wont be let down.
Arsis debut album, A Celebration of Guilt, is a total onslaught of metal. There isn't the first lame riff on this album. There isn't the first sign of mediocrity. This album begins with a fury and finishes strong with no significant downtime in between. A combination of the best elements of melodic death, thrash, grind, and progressive metal, Arsis have really come out at a good time when the metal scene seems to be plagued by an ever-increasing number of metalcore bands showing their chops through half-time breakdowns. Arsis does none of that. The drumming by Michael VanDyne on this album is shockingly accurate. There are a few sound flaws in the drum mix. It's noticeable mainly during double bass solo segments. If triggers were used, this is likely the reason. However, this does not at all detract from the power of the music.
The guitars are refreshingly driving. The melodies don't wander too much. There aren't many moments of rest. The harmonies are well complimented. Although the technical ability here is high, there is little flashiness evident in the playing. Guitarist/Vocalist James Malone puts the song first and works within the framework of the band to create an atmosphere that grabs you by the throat and pulls you in. Malone's vocals are reminiscent of Jeff Walker (ex-Carcass) with some black metal influence.
This album is definitely a must if you like no-compromise balls to the wall metal. No filler here.
Best tracks - Maddening Disdain, Return, The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters
It's been a while since I've listened a band that can capture my ears with just a few seconds of a song. When I first got this album, I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping for something like goregrind or melodic death metal, but the whole album took me by surprise. The Virginian band Arsis(meaning "silence") supplies a well needed kick in the ass to the fading death metal genre. By far, "A Celebration of Guilt" is the best death metal album released this year, and it definately belongs on the top 5 metal albums of 2004 if not in first place(unless some other band can pull off someting even better before the end of the year, which I deem unlikely). This album is now one of my favorite DM albums of all time.
A description, you ask? I guess you could call it brutal death metal played at a high pitch(so it's pure death metal, yet unlike bands like Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse). It also has some influence from the Black metal genre(mainly on the vocals). The pitch and high speed will rip up your eardrums the first time around, then again and again each time, but Arsis still manages to slip some melody in their songs. However I still refuse to call it melodic death metal, because it is simply too brutal to be considered melodic(like the bands In Flames or Dark Tranquility).
I won't describe every single song, because I'd end up writing a review spanning 5 pages on how incredible each and every track is.
I have a habit of starting albums on the second track(mainly just to skip intros and get down to the meat and potatoes of the album, but I didn't realize I was missing out on the awesome first track until later on). When I first heard the second track: "Maddening Disdain", I was overwhelmed by the pounding machinegun-like drums and piercing guitar riffs that, although sounding extremely heavy, conserved some brutal melodies. When I listen to this album, I play this song at least 3 times. It's simply that awesome.
The vocals... how should I explain it... kick incomprehensible amounts of ass. A high pitch growl/scream reminiscent of black metal along with the razor-sharp guitar riffs really make you feel like your having on orgasm in your ears. The vocals are exceptionally good, they sound much better than many black metal and even death metal bands that I listen to. They feel unusually clear, although it's hard to grasp the lyrics. It must be the recording quality. :)
The drums, along with the bass and backing guitar, make a low pitched vibe that will tear up your living room floor if you play it on a stereo with bass boost or some other audio-boosting shit. I played the CD on my brother's car and the dashboard looked like it was gonna shatter to fuckin' pieces!
Every aspect of Arsis' songs are extremely elaborate. The guitar riffing sounds so accurate and rythmical. They never seem to "step out of order", if you know what I mean. Some riffs bear resemblance to Black metal(have I made it clear enough that these guys like the genre? :P). All the songs are high pitched, brutal, and fast as any black metal band. The tempos and rythms are also something that change with every track, unlike the repetitivity in some black metal albums(such as Marduk), keeping all their songs fresh and new. The vocals also follow a nice sounding and accurate rythm, providing even more madness to their songs.
One thing about the guitars that gives me goosebumps is the freaky sounding "wave" Arsis plays between some riffs on some songs, which feel like you're being stung by some poisonous insect. Simply incredible. You can hear this effect clearly on the beggining of the fourth track "Return" or a bit more subtly on "Carnal Ways to Recreate the Heart". The guitar solos are also worth pointing out. Very nice work.
After listening to the whole album I wondered why the hell everyone doesn't listen to death metal. It's still running strong. I've been listening to this album for a few months and I still haven't grown tired of it. It doesn't have a single boring track, nor anything that I'm tempted to skip. I only change the order sometimes to kill the monotony. :D
If you like anything you can bang your head to, even metal in general, make sure you listen to this album.
Now that I have listened to the album consistently over the past few weeks I believe I am finally worthy of reviewing it. NOTE : I am fairly new to the world of Metal, but between you and me, Arsis has the potential to be my favorite band of all time. Or at least "A Celebration of Guilt" has the potential of being my favorite album of all time..
Forget every other Melodic Death album you have heard up to this point. Done? Go buy "A Celebration of Guilt." No joke, this album is by far the best Melodic Death I have heard from the genre, let alone from the United States. If you enjoy technical guitars and drums, you will greatly respect Arsis. Heavy, catchy, melodic riffs are the inspiration of the album. The brutal percussion are the backbone of the opus. If you are an experienced musician and you are familliar with Metal, or any peice of music that is known to be "good," Arsis will shock you. This is not a threat, but a promise.
The lyricism and vocals involved with this album are just short of great. Don't get me wrong, these vocals are good, but nothing amazing. I find this to be a good thing, the fact that Arsis doesnt have the most impressive vocals leaves room to improve and grow. Making them a better group, aesthetically. The lyricism I found to be greatly sincere and special for their genre. Albeit, a bit vulgar at times, which isnt a bad thing, just sometimes confuses the person listening.
Beautiful and Brutal are two words I would use to describe this album. Beautiful guitars, rhythm, and rarely lyricism. Brutal percussion and guitar fills. Do not hesistate a second longer to buy "A Celebration of Guilt." Especially if you have already heard the MP3's. Trust me, the album in it's entirety make the MP3's look childish and weak. Highly reccomended to any Metal fan.
Arsis is a two man band from the USA whom I would classify as melodic death metal, and as far as melodic death metal goes, A Celebration of Guilt is easily one of the finest recordings of the entire genre. It's fast, tight, technical, aggressive (or brutal for lack of a better word), and melodic without venturing out into seemingly endless moments of excessive wankery. The guitar player has a knack for writing high quality riffs, he can shred like a god, and he is a rather fine singer to boot. The drummer is a monster of a drummer, his aggression, precision, and his double bass work are amazingly amazing. I really can't describe what a fantastic album this is, I am hardely worthy of reviewing this...pure musical excellence.
I will try and disect the album a little too give an example of what it slightly resembles....The production really suits Arsis' style, the guitar sound, as well as some of the riffs remind me somewhat of a thrashier version of the Heartwork era Carcass sound. The furious drums are in a league of their own. The vocals seem like they would not be out of place in a black metal band such as Naglfar, Immortal, and maybe even Dissection. However Arsis is hardely comparable to anything, this is some of the most innovative metal I have heard, and if you are a fan of any style of metal, do yourself a favour, save up for this album and buy it. You may also need to save a bit of extra cash to spend on neck surgery after all the headbanging that awaits you.