ARSIS – We Are The Nightmare (2008)

Arsis - We Are The Nightmare It’s hard to get excited about the melodic death metal scene right now; so many of the pioneers of the genre are trading in their old sounds for new sounds, and typically speaking, the new sounds are like the old sounds, but not as good. They’re…friendlier. And friendly doesn’t mix well with death metal of any sort. Enter Arsis, who just four years earlier gave the declining genre a much needed kick in the ass with A Celebration of Guilt. This album had everything that melodic death metal album needed to have: blistering guitar work, with a perfect balance of technical skill (read: not vaunting) on display, inspired solos, hyper-taut drumming, and wonderfully enunciated (but still menacing) vocals. It is almost impossible to overestimate the depths to which each of these components achieve, and the band have continued deliver with each release. And the newest of these is We Are The Nightmare.

I’ll admit it. I initially balked upon hearing a song from the new album on the band’s myspace page awhile ago, before the album was released. It wasn’t bad, but I remember it didn’t strike me the way Arsis normally does. Fortunately, these fears were laid to rest when I heard the rest of the album. Revised impression: yup, they’ve done it again. They begin more subtly here than they have in the past: a quiet, clean guitar gradually emerges from nothingness on the album’s title track, before being carried away by a mixed barrage of technical death metal and neo-thrash. Overall, it’s quite effective, even if the song is a bit slow in the tempo department. But the melodies and the structure of everything is so refined, it’s hard to gripe about the tempo.

As in past albums, one of the biggest highlights of We Are The Nightmare is listening to the drums (on this album, it’s Darren Cesca, who has recently been replaced by Alex Tomlin) weave their magic from track to track. It’s so much more intricate and varied than most death metal fare, a good portion of which is simply devoted to blastbeats, alternating between lightning fast and even faster. Brain Drill are a prime example of a band who do this (and let it be known that they do it better than most); it makes for a fun listen, but ultimately, it doesn’t help the songs don’t add up to much more beyond their individual parts. Thankfully, that’s not the case here.

The blend of technique and melody that Arsis utilize in their guitar compositions often times results in getting the listener caught up in melodies that are (if sometimes only momentarily) difficult to discern. Sometimes, it’s the drum work going against the melody that cause this to happen, as in Servants To The Night, and sometimes, it’s simply the sound itself (and the way it’s layered), as in A Feast For The Liar’s Tongue. And while we’re talking about guitars, it should be stated that the solos on We Are The Nightmare are just as good as anything they’ve done thus far. The clear standout for me is the solo that launches out of the middle of Falling Winds of Hopeless Greed; it’s particularly fascinating in the way it locks in and out of a major key, taunting the listener with brightness, only to plunge them back into the dark.

The album closes on a bookend of sorts with Failure’s Conquest. It begins in much the same manner as the title track did, but rather it balances itself with a more mid-tempo style of metalcore, as opposed to thrash. It works, especially when the band slip into a slower breakdown section towards the end of the song. If you’ve ever wished that As I Lay Dying had called it quits after Frail Words Collapse, the ending of Failure’s Conquest will only help to make that all the more apparent.

I’ve been kind of hard with the Nuclear Blast roster on this blog so far (with the exception of Eluveitie), but now I can also add Arsis to the list (who’ve recently moved from Willowtip). Soilwork, Meshuggah, Children of Bodom, In Flames (especially you, In Flames – you’re permanently on notice) have all been critically misrepresenting themselves as of late. But Arsis, from their beginning, have seemed destined for greater things than merely excelling at the genre – they could re-validate it. And We Are The Nightmare is one more step for them down that road, the road that fewer and fewer melodic death metal bands are treading.

HD RATING: 9/10

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One Response to “ARSIS – We Are The Nightmare (2008)”

  1. […] stand by my 2008 review of <i>We Are The Nightmare; it was one of my top five metal releases of 2008 – even though I concede that that album was […]

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