Arsis - _Starve for the Devil_
(Nuclear Blast, 2010)
by: Aly Hassab El Naby (5.5 out of 10)
When I first heard Arsis, I was surprised at the amalgamation of melody and technicality presented on their debut album _A Celebration of Guilt_, especially the track "Maddening Disdain". Four albums now into its career, the band has maintained a delicate balance between technical intensity and sensible expression, and the credit for that is mostly due to its ex cathedra composer James Malone. He has changed many members over the years, which gave the previous three albums a hint of similarity. This may be a turn off for high maintenance death metal fans demanding variety and experimentation. But the fact that a couple of bands are actually good at it (Opeth and Cynic come to mind) doesn't mean that it fits everyone.

Drummer Mike Van Dyne, who had been only on the first album, is back on this number four effort _Starve for the Devil_. Comparison between different albums might get a little academic, since they don't stray away from each other to an easily noticeable extent. Of course when a band releases one good album and then two others almost just like it, the impact of how good the first one was tends to get watered down over time because it is no longer special. However, Arsis has proved its reliability and consistency as a band that can continuously deliver this balanced hybrid of technicality and melody. This forty minute record is all what you would expect from them, which infers a lack of surprises.

Signs of this balance are all over the ten tracks forming _Starve for the Devil_. The chorus riff on "A March for the Sick" and the riff on (the comically named) "Half Past Corpse O'Clock" are two major riffing highlights. The level of musicianship on offer here is better than that on 2008's _We Are the Nightmare_, and that is partly because of Van Dyne's return. Musical evidence of that new level materializes as the clever interplay between guitar and drums on "Escape Artist" and as the comfort in including some old-school heavy metal influences in the opener "Forced to Rock". Interesting moments remain few and far between, like the melodies on "From Soulless to Shattered (Art in Dying)" and the second guitar solo on the aforementioned "A March for the Sick".

By the end of the fifth or sixth listen, we're left with just a handful of memorable bits and pieces. James Malone still has his penchant for those blackened high pitch screams he's been using since day one, and that didn't help _Starve for the Devil_ exceed its older brothers on the 'surprise meter'. Sticking to formula may be a safe option for Arsis, but its detrimental effect is starting to take its toll. It makes the music run out of juice after just a few squeezes.


(article published 7/3/2010)

4/13/2008 J Smit 5 Arsis - We Are the Nightmare
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