Reviewed: October, 2018
Released: 2018, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
I wasn’t sure if these guys were still around. After issuing their fifth album Unwelcome back in 2013, melodic tech-deathsters Arsis pretty much dropped off the map once the touring ran its course. And though there was a preproduction demo kicking around in 2016, with guitarist Brandon Ellis joining up with The Black Dahlia Murder – not to mention also playing in Cannabis Corpse – and founding guitarist/frontman James Malone mucking about with the “super group” side project Necromancing The Stone, it seemed Arsis had either be relegated to the backburner or abandoned altogether.
Apparently not, for along comes a new Arsis album in Visitant, which, amazingly, features the same lineup as Unwelcome despite the long break and various extracurricular activities. Indeed, the band barely miss a step with the new album, which boasts the textbook Arsis sound that blends equal parts dexterity, brutality and melody.
These guys have long been one of the catchiest bands in tech-death – occasionally pulling a left-hand turn into pop/rock cheese, such as Starve For The Devil’s “Forced To Rock” or Unwelcome’s horsewhipping of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night,” and lest we forget United In Regret’s Depeche Mode cover way back in 2006 – and Visitant is certainly no exception. Here, they even try out another ’80s era pop nugget, though the more obscure “His Eyes” by Aussie wavers Pseudo Echo. This time, it’s a wee bit more true to form – albeit it rather heavier and screamier – than their blast-furnace take on “Sunglasses” that rendered it almost unrecognizable.
As novelties go, it could be worse, but it makes for an odd conclusion to an otherwise pretty solid, no nonsense album. Visitant gets off to a strong start with Black Dahlia-like “Tricking The Gods” with its ample guitar harmonies, snappy hooks and inviting choruses contrasting a tangle of gnashing riffs, neck-snap tempo changes and Malone’s shrieking vocals. “Hell Sworn” brings a bit more heft in its hulking riffs bit, where as “Fathoms” and “As Deep as Your Flesh” take things for a more technical turn, but all are nevertheless rather inviting given the melodic flair of the songwriting and execution.
This marks the first time one lineup has played on two successive Arsis albums, and that pays big dividends here. Where Unwelcome was somewhat aimless, Visitant is tight as drum and unquestionably focused. Malone and Ellis make a formidable tandem, and their tag-team and duel solos here are a thing of beauty. Martin and Ellis provide a limber bottom end, able to provide plenty of muscle when heaviness demands it, fluidity for the technical parts and velocity when tracks like “Funeral Might” or “Dead Is Better” really hit the gas.
Despite seemingly coming from out of nowhere, Visitant puts Arsis back on the map in a hurry, and re-establishes the band’s melodic tech-death bona fides with authority. They will soon be back on the road with the Bloodletting North America XII Tour, lets hope they don’t disappear once again when it’s over.
1. Tricking the Gods
2. Hell Sworn
3. Easy Prey
5. As Deep As Your Flesh
6. A Pulse Keeping Time with the Dark
7. Funeral Might
8. Death Vow
9. Dead is Better
10. Unto The Knife
11. His Eyes
James Malone – vocals, guitars
Brandon Ellis – guitars
Noah Martin – bass
Shawn Priest – drums