A Longwinded Review – Arsis’s “Unwelcome”

The one criticism I have for metal as a genre is that it takes itself too seriously. As a metalhead myself, I find it slightly ironic – namely because so much of the genre is rather laughable. A frenetic and guttural ode to Dionysus? It exists. Songs about fermented offal discharge? Yup. If not directly funny, I hope that it’s at least puzzlingly amusing to someone else besides me…

Arsis - "Forced To Rock" Music Video Still

Arsis – “Forced To Rock” Music Video Still

Yet for some reason, metal is the only genre I can happily listen to regardless of the content and message behind the lyrics. The practical side of me can admit that much of that may stem from the inaudibility of individual words, which of course are screamed and growled rather than annunciated. But on the whole, I can discern enough to know that most metal bands get hung up on aggression. However, the four members of technical death metal band Arsis are helping to alleviate their genre from the weight of its own interests.

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Unlocking The Truth – An Unadulterated Take on Modern Metal

There is something beautiful about vulnerability. We often get hung up on the scarier side of chasing dreams, but the very spirit that arms you against the threat of failure makes life worth living.

I’m often reminded of this in unexpected places. Most recently, I’ve found myself inspired by three sixth-graders in Brooklyn: Malcom Brickhouse, Jarad Dawkins, and Alec Atkins who together form an up and coming metal band Unlocking The Truth.

Unlocking the Truth - Atkins, Dawkins, & Brickhouse

Unlocking the Truth – Atkins, Dawkins, & Brickhouse

Maintaining a band isn’t the path of most middle schoolers, but the trio is extremely passionate about writing and performing their music. However I want to caution against viewing their work as childish enthusiasm. Above all else, Unlocking The Truth is an unbridled expression of creativity. The fact that the band member’s are young is intriguing, but ultimately incidental.

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The Pioneering Harmony of Animals As Leaders

I absolutely love metal. As a music junkie, it can be difficult to be so passionate about a genre when no one else around you enjoys it.  I’m always trying to get people into it, but no amount of persuasion, indoctrination, or even coercion seems to do the trick. Apparently people dislike death metal growls, pig squeals, and machine-gun double bass…


Enter progressive instrumental band Animals As Leaders. Founded by guitar virtuoso Tosin Abasi, the trio seamlessly steps across their backgrounds in jazz, electronica, and even classical to form their relentlessly innovative sound. Unlike a lot of the other metal out there, there is a heightened precision about Animals As Leaders. It’s a good thing, given that they often times straddle disparate musical stylings and time signatures simultaneously.

If you are a fellow metal head or an adventuresome listener, be sure to give them a try!

Meshuggah – Dancing to a Discordant System

Hands down, the five members of Meshuggah are the unsung heroes of contemporary musical composition. Since forming in 1987, the band has become an irrevocable driving force behind extreme metal. And while their contributions are well recognized within their genre, they are one of the most important forces of ingenuity across all musical traditions regardless of personal taste.

Jens Kidman

Jens Kidman

Meshuggah has long since carved a niche for itself through a ceaselessly progressive approach to music. The band often experiments with insanely complicated polyrhythms and alternate tunings on custom-built eight-string guitars in an effort to keep their work untainted by convention. Yet while their music is technically complex, the creative drive is focused rather on writing songs that bring the listener outside of his or herself. In an interview, Mårten Hagström elaborates, “it doesn’t matter if something is hard to play or not. The thing is, what does it do to your mind when you listen to it? Where does it take you?”

Tomas Haake

Tomas Haake

Perhaps it is because they don’t entertain a mainstream audience that the progressive character of the band has been unwavering throughout the last 25 years. In lieu of worrying about sales, the core focus of the band lies in exploration – not only of each member’s creative capacity, but also the limits of what we define as music.

If you’re feeling adventuresome, check out the video below of their live 2010 performance of “Perpetual Black Second” in Tokyo and be sure to track down their recently-released LP entitled “Koloss.”

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