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We Are The Nightmare

Nuclear Blast (2008)
Rating: 8/10

Formed in 2000 by Berklee College Of Music students James Malone and Michael Van Dyne, Arsis have been making metallic waves since their 2001 and 2002 demos began circulating through the underground. The demos led to a deal with Willowtip Records and in 2004 the Virginia-based band released their debut album A Celebration Of Guilt.

Immediately hailed as one of death metal’s most promising technical acts, Arsis were launched into the metal spotlight and continued to garner critical praise for both their 2005 EP, A Diamond For Disease, and their 2006 sophomore effort, United In Regret. The band soon completed their tour of duty with Willowtip Records and signed with legendary metal label Nuclear Blast. Their arrival evidenced their success but became bittersweet as drummer Van Dyne left the band following the signing, leaving Malone a one man band of sorts.

Enter 2008. Arsis return fronted by Malone (who wisely envisioned a bright future for the band) alongside new members drummer Darren Cesca (ex-Goratory / ex-Burn in Silence), second guitarist Ryan Knight, and bassist Noah Martin (who performed the studio bass work on the band’s United In Regret album as well). Malone has carved out a unique sound for Arsis and that continues with We Are The Nightmare, an album that by all rights should have been a stumble in the band’s career.

American death metal is one of the few distinct sounding genres in modern extreme metal and Arsis knows it like the back of their hand. Flawlessly blending the technical and exploratory sound of bands like Sculptured and Nile with the dark and sinister nature of bands like Immolation and Morbid Angel, We Are The Nightmare is the new standard bearer, arguably dethroning Hate Eternal’s debut (1999’s Conquering The Throne). Of course, when your album is produced by Zeuss (Agnostic Front / Hatebreed / Municipal Waste), mastered by Alan Douches (Kataklysm / Unearth / Shadows Fall), and you are already renowned for your songwriting skills, could any less truly be expected?

As with most American death metal, the guitar work is the centrepiece of this album. In that way it is very similar to Nile’s sound. Even if you are not a fan of death metal in particular, it’s easy to get lost in the guitars on this album. ‘Shattering The Spell’ is a good example of that. The guitar work becomes so intense by mid-song that you find yourself focusing nearly completely on the guitars. ‘Overthrown’ is much the same way with more soloing than any Van Halen album and a lead part that would probably make the rock god shake his head, bewildered.

Thankfully the songs themselves don’t become lost here. The title track is as catchy and anthemic as the genre gets and the other bookend, the epic ‘Failure’s Conquest’, is powerful, destructive, masterful, and filled with grandeur. Undeniably the album’s crowning moment. The biting lyrics of the black metal tinged ‘Sightless Wisdom’ and the technicality versus groove showdown of ‘A Feast For The Liar’s Tongue’ provide some flexibility in style that expands the album’s horizon in ways most death metal bands simply would not be able to do.

Arsis’ We Are The Nightmare is exactly what death metal needs right now; a shot in the ass (because Nile’s needle doesn’t appear to be big enough despite the fact that they are ramming it in as far as it will go). From the artwork to the amazingly diverse musicality to the surprisingly consistent sound, this is an album not to be missed. Fans of Dååth, Sculptured, Nile, and Hate Eternal should definitely be seeking Arsis out if they haven’t already.

Mark Fisher

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