Arsis // Starve for the Devil
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Chalk full of good riffs, but more simplistic than previous releases
Label: Nuclear Blast (EU | US)
Release Dates: EU: 05.02.2010 | US: 02.09.2010
In the new wave of technical, fast, melodic death metal bands that have been coming out in the last few years Arsis has stood alone with its professional blending of melodic death, technical death and thrash. Basically an instant success story from their first CD A Celebration of Guilt, the band has gone through a lot of line-up changes and has been out there pretty much consistently since their break in 2004. Starve for the Devil follows on the heals of 2008’s We Are the Nightmare and there are a lot of expectations to be met and surpassed with this new album.
Blowing out the door with “Forced to Rock”, for good or for ill, Starve for the Devil is in the books now and it’s pretty good. The Arsis you know and love is definitely here within these tracks. The record is filled with fast, technical riffs, amazing leads and some great hooks. But Starve for the Devil differentiates itself from previous releases by being far more traditionally structured rock tracks which combine the technicality of their riffing. This change is probably welcome from some, but I suspect that fans of technical death metal will be a lot more disappointed with this stuff.
Starve for the Devil is also superior to its predecessor in that the band has moved back towards more natural drums with the return of drummer Mike Van Dyne. This makes the production on this record so much easier to listen to. Instead of having the very false sounding drums that permeated every crevice in the listeners brains, and overpowered even the guitars in some places, now the production is far more balanced. This fact, combined with the poppy song structures, makes this album fun to listen to for sure. Tracks like “From Soulless to Shattered”, “Escape Artist” and “The Ten of Swords” stand out not for the technical prowess, but because of their hooks and guitar harmonies. At first this is a welcome change, because this record is easy to get hooked on. But there does feel like there’s something missing here for me, personally. Even after deep listening to this album, I began to feel like the band could have worked a little harder at writing more technical pieces. Don’t get me wrong, of course. The band is not simplifying so much that the record doesn’t contain any of the technical aspects that fans are coming to expect. The musicianship on here is stellar. The drums, as mentioned, are fantastic. The bass performance is awesome (not something I even normally mention) and of course the guitar-work is stellar as always. The issue is more stylistic than anything else.
In sum, Starve for the Devil is a pretty good record for fans of bands like The Black Dahlia Murder, At The Gates and other more aggressive melodic death bands. The band has definitely improved in some ways, certainly their writing feels more focused and linear, and that can really go either way depending on who is listening to the record. This record could be a grower, but review deadlines don’t let that kind of thing happen. We’ll see where I stand on it this at the end of the year.