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InterviewsJames Malone Talks About the Latest Arsis CD, Unwelcome

Posted on Saturday, May 04 2013 @ 06:51:10 CDT by Pete Pardo
Heavy Metal Arsis have built up a reputation over the years as being able to consistently deliver melodic and quite technical death metal & thrash, and their latest Nuclear Blast release Unwelcome is no exception, packed to the hilt with memorable hooks and challenging guitar work. Band leader, guitarist, and vocalist James Malone caught up with Sea of Tranquility Publisher Peter Pardo recently to talk about the brand new CD, the art of heavy metal songwriting, touring plans, and the state of the genre itself.

SoT: Unwelcome is a great follow-up to 2010's Starve For the Devil. Can you tell our readers what the band has been up to over the last 3 years, who is currently in the band, tours you have been on, etc.?

James: Thanks for the kind words regarding 'Unwelcome'. I know we all tried our best and really wanted to make a memorable release. The last 3 years have been 'trying' that's for sure. When 'Starve for the Devil' came out, things were as typical as one could expect for a touring band. We were doing some fairly high profile support tours and even a some headlining stuff. In early 2011, about a year after the albums release, the tours offers stopped coming. In February of 2011 we confirmed for a tour in October, which was a long way off. Between confirming for the tour and it actually happening, I ended up moving, took a well paying job with benefits and was forced to choose between touring and keeping my benefits. I chose to stay with the job. A few months later Nick join Arch Enemy and Mike Van Dyne 'left' the band. We immediately replaced Mike with Shawn Priest, who had filled in for us many times since 2008. By this point, Noah and I already had most of 'Unwelcome' written and we filled Nick's spot with 20 year old guitar prodigy Brandon Ellis. The album was recorded and here we are.

SoT: With a handful of releases now under your belt, the band are really starting to hit their stride and have developed the 'Arsis sound' so to speak. Can you talk about the bands progression over the years, and how you see your style in 2013 and where it might potentially go from here?

James: I would agree that we really have hit a stride with this newest album and with the line up we have now, I have no doubt that the next release will be even better. When the band first started, I was really just a kid with no clue or aspirations to do anything more than make brutal music. I was studying music theory and wanted to find a way to incoorperate classical composition techniques into extreme metal. Through the years, I started paying WAY too much attention to being 'technical' and I feel that some of the 'craft' in songwriting was sacrificed along the way. This new album really felt like a return to the mindset of our early recordings. We really just tried to write good songs and like the techincal aspect of the music be there to create tension and interest, we didnt let it dominate the music. I feel the reult is the strongest release have had in years.

SoT: The new CD has plenty of songs that are really building on that technical framework but contain not only catchy melodies but also some seriously memorable guitar harmonies. How hard is it to create brutal extreme metal that is also hook laden and catchy?

James: That's a good question. I find that if I don't overthink things, that is what comes out naturally. If we just let the songs 'flow' and let them write themselves, we usually accomplish what we are after.

SoT: There are a lot of bands doing the tech-death thing these days, though for many fans some of that complex stuff goes way over their heads. Arsis has managed to make their music technically challenging for those who love that sort of thing, but also more accessible for those that like more straightforward metal. What's your secret?

James: Writing a song is kind of like writing an essay or a paper for school, you always need to have a hook. There needs to be something to get the listeners attention, engage them, and make them continue listening. You can expand upon this hook and elaborate upon it, but it needs to be there. The ideas need to be interesting, but they also need to be memorable. We want people to be able to remember our songs and take something away from them in the long run. Keeping these things in mind, helps us achieve the balance between being technical whil also being catchy.

SoT: Extreme metal has changed a lot over the years, and there are now more 'sub-genres' than ever. What's your opinion on deathcore, metalcore, djent, melodic death metal, blackened thrash, symphonic black metal, and all the other numerous styles of extreme metal? Do all these even seem necessary, or do people just always feel the need to classify music?

James: I understand what you're about genre names these days. It seems like people think they need to add more and more words to their chosen genre in order to make themselves seem 'orginal'. I am of the opinion that if your genre name has 3 or more words in it, you are trying too hard and need to relax.

SoT: How does the songwriting process work within the band?

James: At this point it really is a group effort. Its kind of hard for me to say how an Arsis song is 'typically' written because almost every song on the latest album was started in a different way. Some songs I started by myself, some songs were inspired by one of Noah's riffs, and Shawn even sent us some drum parts that we wrote 'Martyred or Mourning' around. Its such a great feeling to have a good group of guys to write music with and it keeps things from getting stale.

SoT: Arsis has done lots of touring over the years-who are some of your favorite bands to share the road with, and who do you most enjoying watching from the side of the stage night after night?

James: I always loved touring with Exodus and Goatwhore. I would tour with those guys any day. Arch Enemy was a blast as well, but Behemoth was probably my favorite band to watch night after night.

SoT: Are there any bands you've yet to tour with that you'd love to either go on before or have open up for you?

James: It would a dream come true to be able to open up for either King Diamond or Mercyful Fate. I would die happy if I could play with either of those bands.

SoT: Extreme metal aside, what are some of your musical influences, as well as bands you are into that don't necessarily fit within the style of music you play?

James: I have a love of 80's synth pop and goth rock bands. Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Mission and Duran Duran are some of my favorite bands of all time. Not a day goes by that I dont indulge in this music on some level.

SoT: What can fans expect on on the road from Arsis in 2013?

James: Touring, touring, and more touring. See you guys on the road!!!!

Peter Pardo

(Click here to read our review of Unwelcome)

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