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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Album Review: Arbiter - Colossus

There must be many who have never heard of Barter In Blood, or Arbiter as they are now known, as the band’s path to universal acclaim has begun in a relatively low-key manner. There’s been a series of gigs (spawning a live album), two EPs and a single over the last couple of years, so it must feel incredible for this Michigan quintet to finally set this, their debut self-recorded album, afloat amongst the oceans of high-caliber deathcore bands out there. On this evidence, jaws may just drop.

This is butchery with a difference. A carving knife approach to deathcore where so many of their peers are using meat cleavers. Colossus is crushingly heavy, and yet insanely delicate in its treatment of each instrument. Clarity is paramount and whilst the buzzsaw guitars, fathom-deep bass and blood-curdling roars gouge out great chunks, the cymbals crash with a “tiss” and the snare pounds with a “dap” or a “dop”. Not a “tith” or a “thunk” anywhere. Considering this is completely DIY (guitarist Jay Field producing, mixing and mastering the whole caboodle) the quality is uber-impressive. There are also the samples and lyrics that lie within to consider, which have been carefully selected to promote the album’s theme of “breaking free of the negativity and corruption” of the modern way of life. A quick flick through their website shows, not only how proud they are of their achievement, but that they have drawn inspiration from the works of no less a figure than Byron (recanting his words for “A Corsair’s Name”). The end result is startlingly sharp of wit, yet strong of purpose – “Swallow the shards of dreams: regurgitate nothing” (“Bringer Of The Black Dawn”); “A sudden burst of clarity, A lost rainbow of frailty” (“Conflux); “We will be beside you as you get up off the floor and we will be beside you as you unleash the vow you swore” (“Death Or Glory”).

Emerging from the hellish industrial soundscape of “Premonitions”, with its conveyor belts, dragging chains and rock-chipping picks, is like taking a breath you didn’t realize you were holding. “Deadfall” quickly clambers up with chugged strikes and speeding wrists to bellow its introduction of “We are Arbiter” right into your face. The impact of lines like “I am silence, hear me roar” leading into the beatdown are telling and the emotion comes through in spades. Colossus isn’t music for the faint of heart. You’ll hear much in the structure that has gone before but it’s the interweaving of different styles of music that most impresses – tribal rhythmic touches, the odd sharp slap of sliced sampling, a footstep into grind and several more into thrash. “Sins Of The Past” gives us a sneak peak of their rock chops with Josh Marr taking over on the kit to pummel out a regular beat and he’s back again with a modish, clean vocal for the technically adept “Conflux” to counter Connor Louiselle’s half-spat shout. Yet there’s always a spot of throat-melting doom vocal lurking behind the corner and for “We Were Bridges” Field slots in a pitch-dropped version of Louiselle’s actual vocals; a sound that the band refer to as his Viking alter-ego, Urzbegoth, a point so deep his singing approaches mere vibration. It’s cheating, really, but it is pretty shocking.

Colossus is what it says on the tin. I’m convinced that this band are utterly dedicated to the album’s values and true to their convictions – when they say “Death Or Glory” they mean it. Stick the kind of verbal onslaught you can believe in behind Satan’s own voice and a steamroller groove, and you have music that will simply flatten all who dare to stand in it’s way. Yes, jaws will drop.

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/arbiter-colossus
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