Arsis: A Celebration of Guilt

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Arsis: A Celebration of Guilt
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Arsis: A Celebration of Guilt
Technical Melodic Death Metal
Willowtip Records
March 30th, 2004 / August 9th, 2011
Release length: 51:00
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Over the past few years, Arsis has quickly become a larger known force in the Metal universe, especially thanks to their well recepted fourth full-length recording, Starve for the Devil. Due to this large spike in fame, it appears Willowtip Records is issuing the band’s debut album, A Celebration of Guilt from 2004 for fans who may have missed the start of the group’s Metal domination. This Virginia-based act that formed around 2000 has proven time and again they are a strong force, and while A Celebration of Guilt was easily the band’s most well accepted one of their best selling recordings, it leaves one to wonder if the recent positive remarks about the album genuinely reflect the album, or seem to be influences by the hype surrounding this group.

A Celebration of Guilt is definitely an interesting album for it’s time thanks to the band’s more technical Melodic Death Metal approach, which was something a little newer for the time of it’s release, though sometimes it just doesn’t really come off that strong, or even that impressive. First of all the production of the album is a little less then one would hope for, having a really muffled sound to the whole thing. The guitars still sound pretty sharp with a heavy bass presence, and the drums hit at the proper levels with a traditional thud and rhaspier, energetic vocals. When the music on the release picks up in speed, the song can sound pretty good. “Return” makes a good example of it with it’s more aggressive sound that doesn’t really feel like it meets a lot of the typical technical concepts, but there are a number of bridges through the four and a half minutes plus song. The starting track “The Face of My Innocence” is another song worth taking note of and, while it sets up a good atmosphere that feels more angry and punishing thanks to a heavy bass performance against the guitars and the thud-sounding bass kicks coming at you in a much faster pace through much of the song.

It seems some of the slower tracks of the release can really hold the album back. “Seven Whispers Fell Silent” is a prime example of this. It’s slower, more technical chugging pacew doesn’t do much for the song to begin with, and thanks to that more muffled audio quality just not capturing the obvious energy behind the band, the song almost seems sterilized and limping in hopes of going for the juggular with what clearly was meant to be a slow-paced bludgeoning track. Due to the bass it does end up doing this somewhat well, but overall the song itself is just not all that impressive. “The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters” is another song on here that just doesn’t really come off as too entertaining. The track goes between a faster and slower pace, but seems to have more of a Deceased gothic/horror story telling approach with some atmospheric Melodic Death Metal that simply doesn’t sound all that unique. In the end it’s a decent track, but it’s not really the most engaging song on the album outside the enjoyable and suiting guitar solo.

Luckily there are more faster paced tracks on here that really drive the album home and are really enjoyable. “Carnal Ways to Recreate the Heart” has some fast music that compares to “Return”, but also does have a bit of a slower passage near the half way mark that creates a very sinister and oppressive atmosphere to the track. It sounds good, though you can’t help but think about how out-of-nowhere it kind of feels given the strong, energetic performance during the song. It doesn’t ruin that pace, and there’s even a follow-up slower section that captures that same kind of atmosphere well, even though it again feels a little out of nowhere but transitions nicely back into the more aggressive speedier performance. “Elegant and Perverse” really grabs hold of the speed concept here and does a great job with it. The song is the shortest on the entire recording, just under two and a half minutes, and it’s enjoyable more for it’s aggressive sound then anything else, though the more energetic performance doesn’t hurt anything either. It also has a pretty strong guitar solo, though it’s pretty short, which is a little disheartening. But, among these and some others, the album does have a some solid tracks throughout the recording, and ends on another positive note with “Wholly Night”, though it starts with a random awkward music box sound with four notes being hit and the music chiming in on the third. This song is perhaps one of the most technical you’ll come across in a good while on the album, and a bit of fresh air thanks to a heavier melodic approach that feels a little more unique and not necessarily an interesting take on some generic lighter sounding Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal. The hooks used are catchy, and offer a dark atmosphere without having much of a aggressive, anger-fueled vibe to it like some others. This is a welcome addition since after a while the songs do start to sound a little similar to one another throughout the release, but not enough to sit there saying you literally just heard the track.


The 2011 Reissue of A Celebration of Guilt is basically just a more complete experience. Back when the album was initially released, there also was a vinyl pressing limited to one thousand copies. The vinyl pressing included a bonus 7″ EP that included the songs “Veil of Mourning Black” and “Painted Eyes” as well as new cover art. The altered cover art is definitely interesting, but the two bonus songs apparently were recorded for the album but didn’t make the CD. If you missed out on the vinyls, Willowtip Records has put them on the end of the album in the same order. Honestly, it becomes pretty apparent why. “Painted Eyes” didn’t make the cut. The song just sounds like a generic filler track. You also have “Veil of Mourning Black” which is a pretty strong track with catchy hooks and a little aggression, but there’s some bridges in here that sound a little cheesy and don’t really fit the rest of the track. As a stand alone song, it’s good, but if it were to be placed in the flow of the full-length somewhere, chances are it would have killed some of the atmosphere to it.


A Celebration of Guilt is a pretty good album, but the audio quality kind of takes away the bite and kick that many songs have. There are times you’ll start to feel like you’ve heard the approach before, but not in a carbon copy sense, or as if you just heard it on the previous track. The vocals, however, do have a decent range, but also feel repetitive and eventually become a bit tiring. Arsis do a good job with this release, and for a debut in it’s time, it was, and still can be considered an interesting, as well as enjoyable effort for what it is. Of course either version of this release with the bonus tracks would be the suggested version to check out, but of course you also have to look at whether you’d rather track down the limited vinyls, or the 2011 reissue. Whichever you choose, the bonus material is ok, though “Painted Eyes” is still pretty bland and bad, and you’re bonus incentives are the songs that someone felt were not good enough to put on the album in the first place. If you enjoy Arsis, you’ll enjoy hearing this one, though it’s muffled audio and rougher overall sound may turn some fans off by the time it’s done.

Initial Release:
01. The Face of My Innocence – 5:33
02. Maddening Disdain – 3:30
03. Seven Whispers Fell Silent – 3:46
04. Return – 4:42
05. Worship Depraved – 3:01
06. Carnal Ways to Recreate the Heart – 4:52
07. Dust and Guilt – 4:24
08. Elegant and Perverse – 2:23
09. The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters – 4:24
10. Looking to Nothing – 3:21
11. Wholly Night – 4:21

2011 Reissue:
12. Painted Eyes (Bonus Track) – 3:47
13. Veil of Mourning Black (Bonus Track) – 2:56

Initial Pressing Score: 6.5/10

2011 Reissue Score: 7/10



Digital review copy of this release provided by Willowtip Records.