Arsis Frontman James Malone Talks the Sincerity of 'Unwelcome'

BY Denise FalzonPublished May 3, 2013

Virginia-based extreme metal outfit Arsis unleashed their latest studio release, Unwelcome, this week, officially following up 2010's Starve for the Devil. The highly anticipated new album finds the band venturing back to their heavier, darker, thrashier roots, and as frontman James Malone explains, he didn't want to pay attention to what's trendy or what might appeal to a larger audience for this record, as Arsis aimed for Unwelcome to be a more natural effort than some of their previous releases.

In a recent Exclaim! interview, Malone — the band's founder, chief songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist — says that in the past, he would be conscious of trends within metal sub-genres and apply them to the band's material, particularly with 2008 album, We Are the Nightmare.

He explains, "We had been touring a lot with bands like the Faceless and Necrophagist, and I think I was very obsessed with being as technical as I possibly could, for the sake of being technical, without paying very much attention to song structure and if things were catchy and the way things flowed, and I think it really showed.

"A lot of people loved the We Are the Nightmare material and I don't have a problem with it, but it definitely wasn't something that came very natural for me. So yeah, there definitely was a time when I was paying attention to what I thought might be trendy."

For Arsis's 2010 album, Starve for the Devil, Malone says he went in the complete opposite direction to try to appeal to a larger audience, which also backfired.

"While a lot of the parts in the songs are still very technical to play, I was really wanting it to be as stripped-down as possible and almost pop rock, if you will," he says. "I thought it would open up a new fan base, in a way. It was kind of tongue-in-cheek at the same time, and I thought people would get the joke, but not too many people got the joke really, so I guess I'm not as funny as I thought."

With Unwelcome, Malone maintains that he's now at a point where he's making the music that he enjoys first and foremost, regardless of trends and if people will like it.

"If people enjoy it, that is awesome, that is great. It's very hard to make a living doing music, it's very hard to make a living doing extreme music in the underground sense. So if I'm not a millionaire off of it, I might as well have some integrity and just create art that I can stand behind and that I am sincere about. I really feel Unwelcome is very much that."

Although the album marks a more sincere turning point for Arsis, Malone says that fans still have expectations for what an Arsis record should sound like.

"I've been hearing for years that we should sound like [2004 debut] A Celebration of Guilt. But, I'm sure if we made A Celebration of Guilt part two, people would complain that we made the same album over and over. I guess they have expectations, and I'm no different. I guess I really don't know what I want either. So yeah, I think they have expectations, but hopefully with this new one we've met and exceeded some expectations in the eyes of a few people."

Unwelcome is out now via Nuclear Blast. Arsis will be heading out on the End of Disclosure North American tour with Krisiun and Aborted. Find a complete list of dates here.

Latest Coverage