Arsis have gotten a lot of flack recently--many folks haven't liked their turn away from the frantically technical towards the heavily melodic. And while I personally liked Starve for the Devil, there's no denying that substantial change has occurred in Arsis's sound, and despite a few bright moments here and there, it has generally been for the worse. Unfortunately, their recent release Unwelcome, seems to confirm that trend.
If you haven't heard Arsis before, their current sound is centred around rapid-fire, technical instrumental work that, for all its merits, seems directed only towards creating predictable melodies and progressions. When you strip away the abrasive exterior, a lot of what Arsis does under the surface is just your basic heavy metal--some of these riffs sound like AC/DC when you actually analyze them. While normally that style isn't a bad thing in itself, it's hard to reconcile that sound with the band that released the tech death standard A Celebration of Guilt--it's a clear downgrade in musical merit and interest, and just not as engaging.
Part of the issue is that Arsis are a fundamentally silly band--one only needs to read the inescapable insipidness that is their lyrics to understand this. You can even see it in their selection of cover songs--after covering artists like Alice Cooper and Depeche Mode on previous albums, Arsis have now added Corey Hart's seminal pop standard "Sunglasses at Night" to their repertoire. The result is that Unwelcome just doesn't take itself seriously, and if the band itself won't extend that courtesy, it's hard to do so yourself.
Admittedly, sometimes this aesthetic works for Arsis; there are a few moments on the album that show they haven't quite entirely lost their touch: "Carve My Cross" has some absolutely brilliant soloing, and "Handbook for the Recently Deceased" actually pulls off the heavy metal riffing incredibly well. (Okay, even I'll admit that "Sunglasses at Night" was kind of great.) But the album overall is still lacking in serious substance, and at the end of the day, Unwelcome is only good as far as novelty music can go.
Dedicated fans will be happily to note that the album comes with some substantial bonus material--in addition to a recrecording of "The Face of My Innocence" (the opener from A Celebration of Guilt), the album also comes with the entirety of the Lepers Caress digital EP (released last year through Scion A/V). Okay, the bonus material actually boils down to a song you've heard before and music you could've legally downloaded for free--but it's still a good move to consolidate their discography in an easily accessible manner, and honestly, Lepers Caress had a few good moments of its own ("Veil of Mourning Black" is a pretty damn cool track, in my opinion).
So if you've stuck with the band through thick and thin, Unwelcome won't phase you, but if you're expecting a return to form, you won't find it here. If it's your first time with the band, you're better off trying A Diamond for Disease or their debut--those will give you a fair impression of the band's better side.
6.0 / 10
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