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Arsis - "Starve For The Devil" (CD)

Arsis - "Starve For The Devil" CD cover image

"Starve For The Devil" track listing:

1. Forced to Rock (2:56)
2. A March for the Sick (4:23)
3. From Soulless to Shattered (Art in Dying) (4:27)
4. Beyond Forlorn (4:01)
5. The Ten of Swords (3:44)
6. Closer to Cold (5:08)
7. Sick Perfection (3:55)
8. Half Past Corpse O'Clock (4:12)
9. Escape Artist (4:22)
10. Sable Rising (3:36)

Reviewed by on April 14, 2010

"'Starve for the Devil' isn't the most original album that I've heard this year, but it's at least better than anything that Arsis have put out in the past."

"Starve for the Devil" is the first Arsis album that I can actually call listenable. I always saw them as the tech metal band for listeners who couldn't handle the extremity of Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan, but who wanted to seem more bad-ass than Dream Theater fans. Thankfully, Arsis have finally changed their direction for the better. "Starve for the Devil" isn't the most original album that I've heard this year, but it's at least better than anything that Arsis have put out in the past.

The most important change is that while Arsis still finds time to show off, they are far more competent songwriters. By cutting out the directionless guitar noodling, Arsis have finally created an album that is worth paying attention to, although they had to sacrifice their identity to do it. In terms of identity, "Starve for the Devil" is just another melodeath album, but for once the band is finally focusing on writing riffs, hooks and choruses instead of shredding as fast as they possibly can.

Unfortunately, the production is horrible. Everything sounds far too thin and weak to the point where it sounds like the last few albums that Andy Sneap has worked on, taking away the impact that the band most likely wanted this album to have. The vocals sound distant, the guitar lacks the kind of power that extreme metal needs and the bass is at least audible but frequently sounds like it is rumbling.

Even though the drums sound okay, they drown out the rest of the music. The overly-loud drums are difficult to get past in a band as guitar-focused as Arsis. While I can appreciate the music for what it is, it's hard to get past the way that it's presented. Sadly, the producer of the album, Chris Harris, has worked with Whitechapel in the past, demonstrating that he knows how to add punch to a production, but deliberately decided to make the sound come across as weak in an attempt to appear commercially accessible.

Production issues aside, the actual songs are fast, catchy, anthemic and admittedly well constructed. Jim Malone saves his chops for the solos, proving that restraint is far more effective than the ostentatious and gratuitous displays of technicality that only appeal to the most hardcore players of Guitar Hero that he favored in the past.

It's a given that the new material will have several new live staples. Yet even when it comes to the songs on the disk, the final track is a letdown, particularly after "Escape Artist," the penultimate song that would have made a far better closer. "Sable Rising" is nothing more than filler that could have been cut without the album losing anything in the process. It's weak, hardly climactic and just an overall poor choice to end an album with. Then again, the album can still be stopped after track nine. It's just a shame that the band didn't officially end their album on a memorable note.

Overall, "Starve for the Devil" is the first Arsis album to click with me. It's flawed, not very original and the production doesn't fit the music at all, but it's still a solid melodeath album. In a crowded genre filled with sub-par imitators, you can easily find much worse.

Highs: Arsis have finally started writing actual songs, the world finally has Arsis songs that are catchy

Lows: Production sounds far too weak, ending track is anticlimactic, somewhat unoriginal, although well played, melodeath

Bottom line: Different and for the better, but not mind blowing

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)