[21 April 2010]
In many ways, Arsis is the one band in the American death metal scene that manages to distinguish itself by playing a different style from the rest of the bands in the scene. However, the way they manage to separate themselves is by latching onto another scene, in this case the European death metal scene. Arsis has consistently drawn much of their sound from Heartwork and Swansong-era Carcass, as well as At the Gates, Soilwork, and (unsurprisingly) Arch Enemy. This is not a bad formula, since numerous other bands besides Arsis have followed it to success in the past; Quo Vadis and Neuraxis are two immediately obvious examples of this. Implementing this formula without becoming stale is something that very few bands are able to do all the time. Arsis is one of the lucky few that can execute the formula and retain the freshness and vitality of their sound, and their latest album, Starve for the Devil, is yet another achievement in this area.
The thing that maintains the Arsis’s high level of appeal is that their songs pull listeners in immediately and don’t let go. Starve for the Devil extends this reputation very well, since every song on the album starts out with harsh, aggressive riffs that catch the ear very easily. It is fairly obvious that lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter James Malone wrote this album from an angry emotional space. Every single song on this album is biting, violent, and unforgiving in both riffs and solos. The drums only add to this image, as the return of founding drummer Mike Van Dyne completely reinvigorates the rhythm section of Arsis. In fact, the biggest area of improvement over 2008’s We Are the Nightmare is in the drumming. Van Dyne’s double bass work is at its highest level, and he completely blows away Darren Cesca’s performance (which was still quite good) on We Are the Nightmare.
The technical aspects of Arsis are a big part of what separates them from other American death metal bands, and while they are not as numerous or noticeable as they were on the band’s earlier work, they are still vital to the sound. Starve for the Devil displays many of the elements the band became famous for in the first place, such as split-second time changes and highly intricate solos. What makes up for the low quantity and prominence of these elements on this album is the fact that the whole record moves faster than anything else Arsis has ever recorded. The increased speed makes the technical elements that much more impressive and enjoyable when they do appear. It also helps ensure that some songs on the album remain memorable long afterwards, whereas if they were slower, they would be easily forgotten.
Starve for the Devil is definitely a great release for Arsis, and it shows that they’re still on top of their game, even with some of the personal issues that have plagued the band in recent years. This album will definitely keep fans coming back for more, and will also help bring new fans into the fold with its fiery, thrash-infused atmosphere. Arsis may be following a formula, but their execution is flawless, and this latest album shows us why.