Arsis – Being Right, And Never Wrong

Monday, 13th May 2013

Early career projections of Arsis were admittedly, very high. This, after their sterling 2004 Celebration of Guilt debut, an album that raked in all sorts of accolades and praise for their fresh and energetic brand of technical melodic death metal. Not getting sucked in by lead single (and perpetual live staple) “The Face of My Innocence” proved to be a futile effort, and off the band went with its 2006 successor United in Regret, and their Nuclear Blast debut, We Are the Nightmare. A rotating lineup, a questionable drum performance on We are the Nightmare by Darren Cesca, and mainman James Malone’s battle with anorexia all proved to be immense hurdles for the band, some of which might have something to do with the fact they’re still mid-tier, when their music is decidedly upper. 

Their new album Unwelcome follows in the pattern of A Celebration of Guilt and 2010’s Starve for the Devil, albeit with increased focus on technicality. For the first time in a long time, the band is without any sort of drama, with only new guitarist Brandon Ellis being only the change in the ranks. This stability is certainly evident across the board – “Carve my Cross,” “Choking on Sand,” and their exceedingly good cover of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” hurl savage bits of tightly-wound guitar work at the listener, all the while Malone spews decipherable death vox to the max. Arsis hasn’t sounded this vibrant in years…probably since 2004 if we want to put it that way.

With the band on solid footing and the release of Unwelcome on the horizon, we snagged the affable Malone for a chat on mid-April afternoon. Here’s how the freshly-shorn guitarist/vocalist responded…

Dead Rhetoric: Is it nice to have some stability in the band? It seems like for the first time, there’s no major turnover or developing storylines like there were for the past few albums.

James Malone: The way that Noah [Martin, bass], Shaun [Priest, drums], and I were able to knock out the writing for Unwelcome, it was about a two-month process altogether. We were able to write and record the Leper’s EP in three weeks, too. Everyone is on the same page now; we all communicate very well. It’s definitely a better spot the band has ever been in.

Dead Rhetoric: With Starve for the Devil, you were coming out of some issues you were having on a personal level, so with Unwelcome, the only big change is getting Brandon into the band.

Malone: We’ve been much more focused than ever, and I think it shows. I’m sure this will carry on into the touring cycle. Hopefully it will be a better time out this time around [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: I saw you on the Sonata Arctica tour this past December with Brandon in the fold. You’ve had quite a few second guitar players come and go, so can you speak to his attributes?

Malone: Brandon is a phenomenal guitarist, and just a really good musician. He and I talk every day, it’s good to have him in the band, just on several levels. He keeps a cool head; he has a bunch of good ideas business-wise, and has taken an interest to organization behind different merchandise orders. He’s really a huge asset and I feel very fortunate to have him in the band now.

Dead Rhetoric: Health-wise, are you on the straight and narrow now?

Malone: Yes. I’m doing probably better than I have in like, since probably prior to my career in Arsis. It’s a really good spot that I’m in.

Dead Rhetoric: We normally don’t see those type of things happen. People don’t rehabilitate themselves while in a band.

Malone: I knew it was something I had to do. There had been so many issues over the course of a few years. I knew I had to stop and put myself together. As soon as I did that, I noticed my writing improved, my playing…my ability to focus on doing the band improved as well.

Dead Rhetoric: You really threw me off when you got a haircut, though.

Malone: [laughs] I know, I know. I’m in the process of trying to grow it back out. My hair had gotten so trashed from years of abuse from being on tour. It just reached a point where I needed to do something. It seems really healthy now. I’ve had long hair since I was 15, and I’m 33, so it was quite the change for me [laughs].

Dead Rhetoric: Just wait until you reach the halfway point when it’s not short, but it’s not long either.

Malone: I’m not quite there yet, but I do remember when I was 14 or 15 and it’s not a fun stage. I don’t look forward to going through it again [laughs].

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