Stellar Musicianship Leads The Way For Arsis
Review and photos by Michael Bradley
Have you ever tried to play a musical instrument? Mastering any instrument is a challenge, and requires countless hours of study, training and perseverance. And that doesn’t even take into consideration any of the natural physical tools needed to be successful: an innate knack for music, a natural sense of timing and rhythm and a well-trained ear. Study and practice alone doesn’t make you good at what you do. Just watch American Idol (if you can stomach it) and you’ll realize that taking years of singing lessons doesn’t necessarily mean that you can sing well. While watching a band like Arsis, it’s easy to forget that the over-the-top musicianship of what you are watching and hearing is the product of all of those years of hard work and training, packed into three to six minute songs.
Arsis is the brainchild of James Malone, a multi-instrumentalist who’s band has weathered several rounds of line-up changes while soldiering on to bring their vision of technical melodic death metal to the masses. Mr. Malone is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, a school that has seen it’s share of notable rock and metal musicians in the hallways: Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer of Aerosmith, Steve Vai, Ed Roland of Collective Soul, guitarist Reb Beach, Brendon Small of Dethklok, vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens and practically every member of Dream Theater. Not bad company to be in, agreed?
The challenging music that Arsis makes is the lethal combination of two sub-genres of heavy metal: melodic death metal and technical death metal. The technical side of the music is characterized by very complex song structures, rhythms and guitar riffs, while the melodic side brings forth the more traditional dual guitar harmonies and upbeat tempos of classic metal bands, such as Iron Maiden. This is music that requires advanced musical theory and technical instrumental prowess. If you’re a hack on guitar then sorry my friends, you’re out of luck.
The band began the night with “Handbook For The Recently Deceased,” a song from the band’s new album Unwelcome that showcases the technical/melodic concept. James Malone’s stellar lead guitar work and harshly screamed/chanted vocals filled the room as rhythm guitarist Brandon Ellis, energetic bassist Noah Martin and drummer Shawn Priest locked into an unbelievably tight groove.
The band performed a career-spanning set, and chose material from three of their five full-length studio releases and one of their two EPs. Included in the set were “Servants To The Night” and “We Are The Nightmare” from their 2008 release We Are The Nightmare, “Maddening Distain” and “Face Of My Innocence” from 2004’s A Celebration of Guilt, “Diamond For Disease” and “The Promise Of Never” from their 2005 EP A Diamond For Disease, and four songs from Unwelcome; the aforementioned “Handbook For The Recently Deceased,” “Carve My Cross,” “Scornstar” and the title track “Unwelcome.”
Full Gallery Arsis photos:
Opening the show for Arsis were three talented Atlanta-based metal bands, each flying the flag for death metal: Control The Devastator, Dreadpull and Xeroderma. Each band seemed to “one up” each other, raising both the energy level and musicianship.
Full gallery Control The Devastator:
Full gallery Dreadpull:
Full gallery Xeroderma