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Review: Arsis, A Diamond for Disease (Willowtip, 2005)

Arsis fucking rules. Simple fact. This EP's main highlight is the massive 13-minute title track, written for the Ballet Deviare in New York City, at which Arsis main man James Malone will perform in January. Recording once more as a two-piece with Malone handling all guitar, bass, and vocal duties, you know from the minute the track opens with distant wails of tapping and melodic swells that reference the chorus that you're in for a doozy, and sure enough, there are just loads of intricate little panning riffs and wild arrangements that still retain the fluidity and intense catchiness you've come to expect from Arsis. Hell, just check out the killer fistbanging 80's metal break two-and-a-half minutes in! Yes! You're definitely in for a good amount of tempo changes and lots of subtle shifts, and the amount of layered guitar interaction is pretty intense as a whole, with dissonant nuances creeping in at times amidst the flurries of tapping riffs or more streamlined dual guitar harmonies and classic lead breaks that periodically add spice. And, since these fuckers really know how to write a damn song, they don't simply spend 13 minutes going from riff to riff to riff - key points are revisited, altered, etc. throughout, so while definite progressions are explored and the piece is far from stagnant, it's not a mindfuck or anything: It's a technical, complex song. "The Promise of Never" is a bit of a companion track to the central title piece, clocking in at barely under three minutes and tearing through shitloads of speedy, thrashy picking patterns and dual guitar riffs that would've been pretty well at home on "A Celebration of Guilt" in terms of overall energy and pacing. Good stuff. And leave it to Arsis to cover a fucking late-80's Alice Cooper track right smack in the middle of the EP!? Expect yet more shredding solo acrobatics and beefed up 80's metal riffs, and though the song structure here is obviously more straightforward and to the point than the type of material that Arsis generally composes, while I've never been a big Alice Cooper fan it seems as though they've definitely stamped the Arsis seal on this one in terms of throwing in their own flare. The production's pretty damn good as far as the tones and clarity are concerned, especially in the clearer and more balanced title track. I'm having a bit of a hard time making out the basslines, but I really dig the crispness of the guitar tone, and they've done a better job of blending the snarling vocals in against the guitars this time around, while also toning down the rigidity of the drum work to where you can still make out the impressive fills and patterns, but the guitars are definitely running the show all around. All things considered it sounds very nice, but my only minor complaint is that it's sort of "hot" sounding in terms of scattered little faint crackles of distortion here and there, and I'm not sure if that's a mastering issue or something to do with the recording levels or what. Not a big deal, but definitely something that can create a minor distraction when listening in headphones and such. The layout looks really damn good, too. Sure, there's room for improvement, but there's something interesting and eye-catching about a lot of the imagery and the way things piece together, especially on the outer packaging, and that definitely pays off. The lyrics to the two original tracks tie together pretty closely and deal with betrayal and such without getting too specific or what have you, there's definitely some room there: "Because along this path are fragile whispers guiding me with guilt. And though they scream the faintest lies, they lead me to the knowledge that your words were chosen wisely, disguised was all intent…" Another scorching release from one of the finest and most talented metal bands out there right now. I hope this is yet another step towards greater success. Great guys, great band. Sign me up for the new full-length, 'cause I can't wait. "Raise your fists and yell", indeed, my friends…

[Willowtip]
Running time - 19:59, Tracks: 3
[Notable tracks: A Diamond for Disease]
Willowtip - http://www.willowtip.com