With their first 3 albums, A Celebration of Guilt, United in Regret and We Are the Nightmare, James Malone’s Arsis, injected a feral energy and staggering musicianship to a stagnating melodic death metal scene and added the US as major players in the genre. However, personal and line up issues hindered the band’s progress and the band’s 2010 effort, Starve for the Devil was a divisive affair (I did not care for it) that put the band on Children of Bodom-like status. As a result fellow yanks Vale of Pnath and Alleageon and their albums kind of jumped in and took a lot of the band’s thunder delivering a very similar form of highly technical and frantic, melodic death metal with inspiring musicianship.

So here is Malone with another line up, attempting to rebound with Unwelcome and it sees Malone finding a bit of a more fluid balance between the band’s early frenetic material and a more tempered, rock based commercial sound. And for the most part it works. Other than the blasting cover of Cory Hart’s “I Wear Sunglasses at Night”, there’s nothing as campy or cringe inducing on Unwelcome as there was on Starve for the Devil.

The title tracks bursts out of gate, showing that Malone is as focused and skilled (especially vocally) as he was early on in the band’s career and his new supporting cast is up to the challenge, particularly relatively unknown drummer Shawn Priest, who really adds some ferocity to Arisis‘s formidable melodies. Second track “Carve My Cross” (from the Lepers Caress Ep) is an early standout with some very nifty shreddage and lead work before the furious double bass salvo that starts “Handbook for the Recently Deceased”, which is one of the more crossover tracks melding some shout along choruses and rock riffs and lead work with the blistering initial assault.

Luckily, for the most part, the balance is a little heavier towards early Arsis rather than Starve Arsis though as most of the tracks are more intense, busy and technical (“Choking on sand”, “Martyred or Mourning”, “No One Lies to the Dead”, “I Share in Shame” and second standout “Scornstar”), with only a few minor moments of more tepid Heartwork styled prose (the aforementioned “Handbook…”, “Let Me Be The One”).

As a bonus, the digipack version of Unwelcome comes with the 2012 Lepers Caress Scion AV EP, where Starve For the Devil‘s memory was already being erased with some stellar material harking back to the band’s first 3 efforts like “Veil of Mourning Black”, “A Tearful Haunt, My Departure” (even the song titles seem to be from the first three albums). Also, there is a redo of “The Face of My Innocence” from A Celebration of Guilt, but that really only serves to show how GOOD that debut was, but the additional 20 minutes makes Unwelcome even more worthwhile (even with the double up of “Carve My Cross” and a re-released track).

Though not quite a full on return to glory, Unwelcome is a marked improvement for Arsis, even if the genre might be on its last legs and it shows at times, Arsis and particularly Malone, has the potential to be a real difference maker in US metal if he can keep his head on straight and keep a stable line up.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
June 25th, 2013


  1. Commented by: shellee

    Nicely written Erik. I heard them i think twice when they were firt coming out. I’d be interested to hear what has come of them now

  2. Commented by: Gabaghoul

    Great detailed writeup. I was an Arsis early adopter, had some early mp3s even before Celebration came out, but they have been frustratingly uneven ever since. I didn’t find Starve as unappealing as United as Regret – yes it was cheesy but at least it had some hooky melodies – but I have rarely returned to it since its release. Will definitely check this out now.

  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    also, death metal covers of 80s songs seems to be the new theme this year, what with this Corey Hart cover, Omnium Gatherum doing Rush’s “Subdivisions,” and Fractal Gates’ awesome cover of Cheap Trick’s “Mighty Wings.” Though you could say In Flames kicked it off way back on Whoracle w/ Depeche Mode’s “Everything Counts.” Am I forgetting some?

  4. Commented by: GDubya

    “Vale of Pnath and Alleageon”

    Hell yessss.

  5. Commented by: Iwein

    I got to know Arsis, just before ‘ A Celebration…’ came out. I was stoked about what this band was going to bring? Also wrote a review when the record came out. But since then, they weren’t able to keep getting my attention. Unwelcome is, in my opinion, a decent return to form. The record keeps spinning, in contrast with their post-Celebration efforts. Also loved ‘a diamond for disease’, though.

  6. Commented by: vugelnox

    This IS slightly better than anything they’ve released post-Celebration… but sadly it maintains the status quo of them being a band that released one great album and followed it with a decade of nonsense.

  7. Commented by: Luke_22

    For me this is a big return to form and a definite top 10 contender. I agree they’ve had an uneven career but Starve for the Devil copped more flak than it deserved(although it wasn’t a great album by any means). Everything seems more intense this time round, building off the momentum of the Lepers Caress EP. It has shades of A Celebration of Guilt and is their best since that album,with some particularly great shredding and vocals from Malone. And the cover song is actually not too bad at all.

  8. Commented by: Staylow

    This is a fantastic return to form, IMO. I even love the Corey Hart cover – it never fails to put a smile on my face when it comes on. That said, I must be the only one that thinks We are the Nightmare is superior to A Celebration of Guilt. Not by much, but still. Also, I don’t find United in Regret nearly as dreadful as most, though it is certainly lacking in comparison to the albums that sandwich it. Starve for the Devil is atrocious though, can’t argue that.

  9. Commented by: Diggedy1

    Got this at the store with all the tracks…it’s pretty pissed and awesome sounding. It’s almost a perfect balance between the craziness of We Are the Nightmare and the classiness of his first album. The Sunglasses cover is something…if I didn’t know better I’d have guessed it was God Dethroned, it’s that pissed!

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