ARSIS – Starve For The Devil (2010)

For a band who named themselves after the music term used to note the “up” or offbeat section of a bar, Arsis have been getting steadily more watered-down and traditional since their explosive, unfuckwithable 2004 debut, A Celebration of Guilt. That album, released right before the US melo-death movement began to turn its European purveyors (In Flames, Soilwork, Dark Tranquility, etc.) into mere shadows of their former selves, was (in retrospect) an alarming prophetic warning that things were headed in the wrong direction. But Arsis (a then-unknown band on a small label (Willowtip) went largely unnoticed in 2004, as Killswitch Engage and Arch Enemy began to creep acceptably into Hot Topic together, arm in arm. Fast-forward to 2008, when the Swedish melodic death godfathers At The Gates reunited for a brief summer tour – who opened for them? Arsis? No. Darkest Hour. Darkest fucking Hour. While Darkest Hour makes sense Arsis would’ve been right, but there’s no use obsessing over it: all it meant was that melodic death metal had taken a wrong turn, and wasn’t coming back. Worse things can happen.

While Arsis’ newest album, Starve For The Devil, is not one of those “worse things”, it is, unfortunately, a sign of worse things to come. Arsis sound less like At The Gates via Meshuggah here, and more like Dethklok. True, Dethklok exist solely for the fun of it, and Arsis are clearly having a good time here (as evidenced by the song titles Half Past Corpse O’clock and Forced To Rock – song titles which could conceivably have originated from Cannibal Corpse and GWAR, respectively), but the menace to their music is lacking. Every song here, with its wailing solos and persistent double-bass drumming, keeps you focused on it, sure – but all the songs Starve For The Devil fail to force you to take notice of them. And that’s a sad thing for me to hear.

I stand by my 2008 review of ;We Are The Nightmare; it was one of my top five metal releases of 2008 – even though I concede that that album was the band’s weakest release when it came out. But with Starve For The Devil, I can do little else but face the unfortunate music: as go the great Swedish melodic death metal bands, so apparently, go Arsis.

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