Well, I’m not sure what I did to end up on the Angry Metal Guy’s Official Shit List. However, his assigning me both the new Lazarus A.D. and Artas albums proves I’m on it bigtime. I can just picture AMG up there on his throne all high and mighty, laughing as he contemptuously sneers, “let him eat metalcore.” Steel Druhm does not like being on the Shit List and Steel Druhm will have his wengeance! Anyway, Riotology is the second album by Austrian metalcore/quasi-thrash bandwagon jumpers Artas. Up until now their claim to fame was a wildly ill-conceived cover of Coolio‘s “Gangsta’s Paradise” which ended up being funnier than Weird Al Yankovic‘s “Amish Paradise.” Now, with Riotology they can truthfully claim recording two average metalcore albums. Hey, congrats guys! As soon as I saw the album cover which looks like a screen shot from the Assassin’s Creed video games I should have known where this was heading. The second clue I was in trouble was the band’s prominently displayed claim that they play “modern metal.” Apparently that’s record industry speak for tired metalcore by bands that yearn to be At the Gates and In Flames with poppier, radio-friendly choruses. Because I’m merciful, I will now implore you all to leave this review and save yourselves. I can’t go with you however, for I must write it.
After a delightfully non-core intro, things kick off with “Fortress of No Hope” (ironically, exactly the feeling that set in for me) and you’ll be regaled with the same melodic thrash-core you’ve been beaten into expecting by years of record company abuse. After some screaming and shouting, there’s the expected clean singing for the “big” chorus that aims for radio airplay somewhere, anywhere. If you’ve ever listened to Shadow’s Fall, Killswitch Engage, Unearth or Trivium, then you heard this before, and here it is again. Taking the route of Lord Doom, who always tries to find the positives, there’s a decent riff/drum interplay at 3:44. There, I was positive! On “The Day the Books Will Burn Again,” vocalist Hannes adopts a more snarling Udo-esque approach, which sounds decent, but he quickly lapses back into the textbook metalcore screams and the song goes down the tubes. Later, we get “The Suffering of John Doe,” with plenty of dramatic clean singing and a semi-ballad breaks out at times between generous helpings of chugga chug chug riffing (they obviously care nothing for the suffering of Steel Druhm). Elsewhere we get a song sung in German (“Rassenhass”), one in Spanish (“No Pasaren”) and “Le Saboteur” is in French. While it’s clear Artas are multi-lingual, they remain painfully one-dimensional and that dimension is predictable metalcore that would have been HUGE in 2000.
This is a pretty long album with sixteen tracks of thrashy-core punishment. If that’s your thing then I guess this is a pretty good bargain. Of the sixteen, best in show probably goes to “Fortress of No Hope,” “Ashes of Failure” or “A Martyr’s Dawn.” Aside from singing in different languages and including some orchestration in “Between Poets and Murderers,” there isn’t a lot to distinguish Artas from other acts playing this style. They write predominantly fast songs with plenty of screaming and clean choruses that strive to be as catchy and ear-friendly as possible, and that’s pretty much it folks. As far as how these guys rate against the new Lazarus A.D., I would give Artas the edge for having superior riffs, energy, greater variation in songwriting and a more sincere, authentic and less forced feel to the music.
While the fact that bands like this are still getting signed makes me want to punch a random record company executive, there must be a market for it, so I blame society. If you love this style, buy this album. If you hate it, then don’t. OK, can I come out of the doghouse now AMG? [Do you promise to quit being a review hog? – AMG]