Arsonists Get All the Girls

Century Media must be stock piled with cash, absolute mountains of it I reckon. The question that keeps popping in my brain is how this has come to be? Is it thanks to their massive back catalog bringing in the bacon, or something more sinister ala a takeover by a middle eastern monolith or some nut at a pharmaceutical giant with a few million to burn? The cause for this riddle rippling through my brain is this perplexing record from Arsonists Get All the Girls. Incredibly, it’s their third outing and this sextet from Santa Cruz is not straightening up on “Portals,” if anything, they are getting weirder and what’s more are honing their appeal to a very, very niche market, one of which appears to be dying out.

On top of this, Portals, in my eyes just doesn’t slot comfortably into the CM manifesto be it aesthetically or musically. Now of course I realize the label went a bit gaga a few years ago, picking up the likes of Winds of Plague and Suicide Silence, those I could understand, this I can’t, had it been on their imprint Abacus (if it still existed) then it would make more sense, but on the main roster? Anyway debating this conundrum is futile, maybe I am reading far too deeply between the lines, and after all, what does it matter as long as the music is good?

That in itself is a perplexing question with no straight answer (sorry everyone). From a technical perspective and in terms of ability, the answer is yes, these boys can play, they can shred in fact with sheer ease and with impressive dexterity, so from a technical perspective, yes, the music is good but its overall impact is often softened by some strange song writing choices. “My Cup’s Half Empty,” for instance, begins with a hammering, bludgeoning riff which segues seamlessly into impressive shredding, and crunches, flowing effortlessly. Thus, so far, so satisfactorily head crushing, but then, popping out randomly from the chaos are these wacky (no other term) beeps, squeaks and other odd noises.

The approach remains similar for “Skiff for the Suits,” again, there is plenty of juicy heaviness to be found, such as the lurching crunch that kicks in just after 40 seconds, again though, once that part ends the beeps and oddities return. At times these intrusions sound like the works of some twisted Casio keyboard from another dimension, however, the unique texture doesn’t equate to them being good or their inclusion valid, luckily the no nonsense heaviness returns at the track’s bookend, dragging it to a more bearable conclusion. “Saturnine,” continues this, and in fact instills a finer balance, with the extra terrestrial meanderings slightly more restrained with the focus pushed towards molten riffing and focused bludgeoning. To further shift focus on the aggression, some gang vocals and even gutturals show up on this track.

Again, I will reiterate that the band has talent, no question there, and they are not afraid to take chances, no doubt either there, but this constant pandering towards the weirdness is still their downfall. I definitely think they can make this kooky experimentation work in a moodier, more complimenting manner to their metallic barrage, but then, perhaps if you subtracted all the weirdness from Portals, what would that make the band? Answer; a solid, even likable metalcore band but perhaps one that wouldn’t have made it this far or made this many albums and most importantly, may not have made it onto Century Media.

Maybe Portals, and in fact their back catalog is of the same stock as say Focus, or Spheres, or Into the Pandemonium, or even Mr Bungle, that being as of now, it’s largely misunderstood, maligned and rejected. Maybe in years to come the band will become a holy grail to music nerds who will dig back through this era and seek to find that weird metalcore band that released a few albums on Century Media.

A more likely fate is being caste to the dark, decrypt depths of bargain bins in music stores across the world, never again to see the light of day.

I therefore hope I am proved wrong and the nerds yearn to hunt for it…

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Benjamin DeBlasi
November 9th, 2009


  1. Commented by: krustster

    Good review that sums up the band pretty well. They know what they’re doing but they get a little too goofy for their own good. On the other hand, I thought this album actually toned down the silliness and was more listenable (and much more entertaining) than the previous tape.

  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    “more listenable (and much more entertaining) than the previous tape.”

    tape? what is this, 1988?

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