Another album released on April 30th, another fantastic disc and potential album of the year contender for me. It’s like April 30th was the best day ever. Well not really but whatever, I’m immensely enjoying three albums released on that day so I’m happy. The other two were “Pelagial” by The Ocean and “Veto” by Heaven Shall Burn, both reviewed by me here and here respectively. Arsis’ “Unwelcome” may very well be the best of them all!
“Unwelcome” is a return to form in many ways. The band has mostly dropped the glam influenced sound they played with on “Starve for the Devil.” The influence is there but it is incorporated, and integrated with the melodic death metal style that made early Arsis releases so solid, much more tastefully. The material is also a lot more focused and powerful. Composer, guitarist, and vocalist is solely responsible for this. Emerging victorious from drinking problems and struggles with anorexia that have plagued Malone and derailed the momentum of Arsis in previous years, Malone has laid to tape some of the most focused on solid material ever released by the band. You can find Malone’s own comments regarding the matter within this interview with metalsucks.net, found here.
Arsis’ new album features all the elements of their sound that them such a solid band in the past. Technical riffing, something that was lacking on “Starve for the Devil” is abundant on the album. Classic melodic riffing, similar to Arsis’ earliest and highly acclaimed releases, is prominently featured. Like I said earlier, the glam influenced parts are still around, but used more sparsely and more tastefully. The drumming is solid and certainly nothing to complain about. Malone changes the tempo often as well to keep “Unwelcome” interesting in that dimension. The blistering speed and technicality mixes well with the grooving or melodic riffs. However whether the riffs are fast, slow, technical, thrashy, glam influenced, or extremely melodic, everything Malone has written is extremely catchy. And who can forget the shred. There’s a ton of amazing soloing, featuring plenty of Malone’s signature tapping. The lead work is the best its ever been. Tracks ‘Carve My Cross’ and ‘Handbook for the Recently Deceased’ both have some excellent solos. Overall, “Unwelcome” is just heavy, metal, and quite fun to listen to.
The entire image of this album captures the idea very well. From the first moments of the first track, the title track ‘Unwelcome,’ the production and mix produces a very discerning feeling. The guitar tone is certainly the opposite of welcoming. There isn’t warmth in the tone. Nope, just an unwelcoming, blistering mass of metal. The fact that it isn’t immediately easy to distinguish what’s going on in the two riffs being played adds to this effect. It’s like Arsis doesn’t want you to, or you are unwelcome to, listen to this album. Malone’s vocals only help the furtherance of this idea. The harsh, high vocals are powerful and raspy. Just how I love them. Also check out the album cover. The black and gray certainly isn’t warm and fuzzy in the least.
There’s also some interesting songs included with the album. First off, the entire “Lepers Caress” EP, previously released for free by Scion AV last year, is included as bonus tracks. A reworked version of ‘Carve My Cross’ is the second track on the “Unwelcome” tracklist as well. If you haven’t heard this material, the first with new drummer Shawn Priest and guitarist Brandon Ellis who play on “Unwelcome,” Arsis makes it easy for you by including it with the album as bonus tracks. The first bonus track is a rerecording of ‘The Face of My Innocence.’ This track is the first track from highly acclaimed debut album “A Celebration of Guilt.” This song directly proceeds “Unwelcome” and makes it quite easy to examine the two bookends, the first and most recent songs, released by Arsis. You can easily hear the progression the band has made and see the beginnings of the signature style that defines Arsis. Included in the final cut for “Unwelcome” is a cover of ‘Sunglasses at Night’ by Corey Hart. The cover, being a death metal cover, very obviously brings a new style and idea to the song. What’s more surprising is that the vibe of the song stays basically the same. A ripping guitar solo tops the cover off. It’s a damn good cover honestly. When asked about covering Corey Hart Arsis mastermind James Malone responded “Everyone loves Corey Hart, whether or not they admit it. If you say you don’t like Corey Hart, then I don’t trust you. It’s that simple.”
“Unwelcome” is a blistering, vicious return to form. Malone and friends are back and better than ever with this one. Arsis is a band that has always been fantastic at being technical yet still catchy. Not many bands can do it all, and even fewer better than Arsis. “Unwelcome” is the perfect return to form, very possibly the best release by the band as of yet and almost definitely one of my top ten albums of the year. Pick this album up if you haven’t yet and see Arsis on tour. “Unwelcome” gets a perfect 10/10.