Arsis is an American technical/melodic death metal band. Characterized by their strong focus on mixing catchy songwriting with technical showmanship, as well as their heavy traditional metal influence, Arsis has become a major player in modern death metal over the years even in spite of the many, many hurdles they've had to clear.
Formed in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 2000 by Berklee friends and students James Malone (vocals, guitar) and Mike Van Dyne (drums) over a mutual love of King Diamond, the band was initially not a serious endeavor, though they did record a pair of demos in 2001 and 2002 in spite of this. To the mutual surprise of Malone and Van Dyne, however, the demos actually gained a fair bit of praise, enough so that the two eventually decided to make Arsis a serious endeavor as well as a live band. This quickly led to a deal with Willowtip Records in 2003, with a full-length, A Celebration of Guilt, soon following. The near-unanimous critical praise that followed helped propel the band even further, with the A Diamond for Disease EP dropping that following year and creating an even bigger splash thanks in no small part to its twelve-minute title track. 2006 brought with it a full-time bassist in the form of Noah Martin, as well as United in Regret, their second full-length. Unfortunately for Malone and co., however, United was met with a decidedly less enthusiastic reaction. In spite of this, the band soldiered on, even welcoming in new blood in the form of hotshot young guitarist Ryan Knight, finally providing a dual lead team. Another hotshot young musician came the following year in the form of fellow Berklee grad Darren Cesca, who replaced the departing Van Dyne. This also coincided with a new record deal with Nuclear Blast, something that served as a major milestone for the band and a harbinger of greater success to come.
This new, more technically-inclined lineup went on to record 2008's We Are the Nightmare, their Nuclear Blast debut, which coincided with multiple tours supporting high-profile acts. Cesca, however, did not stay for much longer, as the tensions between him and the rest of the band reached a breaking point. Alex Tomlin replaced him for the short term as a live session member, though he soon left as well and was replaced in turn by Shawn Priest. Knight and Martin left later on that year, with the former having joined The Black Dahlia Murder and the latter focusing on his college studies. Alone at the helm, Malone decided to try and keep Arsis alive anyways, with Nick Cordle quickly joining on bass before switching to guitar and Van Dyne returning to his old drum spot. Nathaniel Carter then joined in on bass the following year, creating the Starve for the Devil lineup. That album dropped in early 2010, but Carter did not stick around and was quickly replaced by a returning Noah Martin. 2011 brought with it a touring blitzkrieg, though Malone surprisingly sat out one of the tours due to his need to rebuild his life after a lengthy series of major personal problems, including a severe anorexia episode. As such, Mike Parks and Brandon Ellis filled his vocal and guitar spots, respectively.
2012 brought another round of major changes. A demo version of a new song was released early in the year, but that was offset by Cordle's departure to fill Chris Amott's spot in Arch Enemy, as well as Van Dyne's (presumably) final departure to focus on his career. Brandon Ellis and Shawn Priest were welcomed in full-time as a result, creating the current lineup. Another barrage of touring followed, and the end of the year brought the free Lepers Caress EP courtesy of Scion A/V as a taste of what was to come on Unwelcome, which hit four months later in April 2013. Another whirlwind of touring is inevitable at this point, and this certainly appears to be one of the most stable eras the band has seen yet.
- Demo 2001
- Demo 2002
- A Celebration of Guilt (2004) - Remastered and reissued in 2011 with the bonus tracks from the LP version.
- A Diamond for Disease (2005) - EP
- United in Regret (2006)
- As Regret Becomes Guilt (2007) - Demo compilation
- We Are the Nightmare (2008)
- Starve for the Devil (2010)
- Lepers Caress (2012) - Free EP
- Unwelcome (2013)
- Visitant (2018)
This band contains examples of the following tropes:
- Concept Album: United, chronicling a bad relationship, and Visitant, a collection of horror movie synopses.
- Cover Version: "Roses on White Lace", "The Things You Said", "Sunglasses at Night" (Corey Hart), and "His Eyes" (Pseudo Echo). They also recorded a cover of The Lake for the special edition of Starve, but this wound up not being released thanks to copyright issues.
- Creator Breakdown: Malone spent the better part of the 2000s struggling with a drinking problem; when he finally quit, his old anorexia issues came back tenfold strong, culminating in his weighing only 128 pounds, which is a dangerously low amount for a man of his stature (6'1") and build. He then gradually began to pull his life back together from there, which wound up resulting in his having to sit out a tour. Thankfully, he's since gotten better.
- Epic Rocking: The title track of Diamond tops the scale at a whopping 12:52. The band regularly performs segments of it live, but full performances are VERY rare.
- Filk Song: Visitant is a loose concept album based around various movies that Malone enjoys note .
- Grief Song: "The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters" plays with this trope from the perspective of a bystander at a funeral for someone who took their own life (possibly something that actually happened, as Malone played guitar at Catholic churches in the Boston area for quick cash while attending Berklee) who is disgusted by how the family makes it about themselves when they were the reason why the person killed themselves to begin with.
- I Am the Band: James Malone.
- Insufferable Genius: This is what got Darren Cesca thrown out of the band. It started during the writing process of We Are the Nightmare, where he was incredibly obstinate and inflexible and would not budge on anything (which led to the massive overplaying that was the target of no small amount of criticism regarding his performance) and only got worse during the touring cycle until they finally had enough. While Malone still respects Cesca's ability and the body of his work, he still makes it very clear just how much of a pain in the ass the man was to be in a band with.
- Lyrical Cold Open:
- "I'M! SO SORRY! TO HEAR OF YOUR BIT-TER LOOOSSSSSSS!"
- "BEING RIGHT NEVER FELT SO WROOOONNNG!"
- Melodic Death Metal: Particularly Starve.
- Metal Band Mascot: The demon that appears on the covers of their full-lengths is something of this, though Malone hasn't given it a name.
- Metal Scream: Malone has a penchant for Type 3, though they have shades of a Type 1 on Visitant.
- Misogyny Song: United was more or less this in the form of a concept album, and it's part of the reason why Malone doesn't like that album.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Hard 9 for most of their material, occasionally crossing into a 10 or even a borderline-very soft 11. Starve was mostly a soft 9 but occasionally bordered on a hard 8.
- New Sound Album: Everything since A Diamond for Disease. To clarify:
- United was more streamlined, with the riffing downplayed in favor of increased guitar soloing.
- Nightmare greatly increased the technicality and was the most obvious display of Malone's love for Shrapnel Records.
- Starve greatly downplayed the technicality and bumped up the trad influences, essentially creating a fairly standard melodic death album.
- Caress was significantly heavier than their old material and brought back most of the technicality that Starve left behind, but not to Nightmare levels. This style was carried over to Unwelcome.
- Revolving Door Band: Notorious for this.
- Signature Style: Winding, heavily power and trad-influenced riffing, Shrapnel Records-esque soloing and lead fills, and Malone's signature snarling rasp. The drummers all have their own styles, too: Van Dyne made heavy use of "Suffo blasts" and rapid full-kit fills, Cesca had an extremely flashy and energetic style chock full of fills, hyper-speed blasts, and dizzyingly complex patterns, while Priest has a brutal death-influenced style with lots of blasting and quick fills.
- Special Guest: Emil Werstler did a guest solo on the cover of "The Things You Said", while Knight and Cordle delivered several guest solos on Unwelcome and Malcolm Pugh has a guest lead on Visitant. Lastly, Taylor Washington (Paladin) has become Ellis' full-time live fill-in; while Ellis is still in the band until further notice, his touring, writing, and recording schedule with The Black Dahlia Murder is largely incompatible with Arsis', and while he theoretically could have made Arsis' fall 2018 tour, he spent so much of 2018 on the road that he just wanted to spend a little bit of time at home with his wife, so he enlisted Washington for the job.
- Supergroup: Malone's side project Necromancing the Stone, which also features Ryan Williams (ex-The Black Dahlia Murder), Jeramie Kling (The Absence), and Justin Wood and John Williams (Brimstone Coven).
- Technical Death Metal: Particularly on Nightmare, which occasionally reached near-Brain Drill levels of craziness.
- Teen Genius: Brandon Ellis is something of this, as he got his original live session spot with Arsis when he was just barely nineteen years old.
- Vocal Evolution: As the years have gone on, Malone has shifted his vocals from a raspy snarl to a mid-ranged shout that is closer to thrash metal vocals. This is likely due to age, as he is 38.