2005 has been an odd year for melodic death metal. There have been some solid releases such as Dark Tranquillity's `Character', Scar Symmetry's `Eden Fire', Detonation's `Portals to Uphobia' and Darkane's `Layers of Lies' which were not great but were definitely enjoyable. Also bands like Scar Symmetry managed to make the super melodic style that has been popular lately actually listenable. But seeing as how all my favorite melodeath bands (Soilwork, At The Gates, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity) were all either broken up or releasing material weaker than their earlier work I was not really expecting much shocking.
Thus enters Arsis's new thirteen minute song, "A Diamond for Disease". I was somewhat impressed by their first album `A Celebration of Guilt', the talent was there if it somewhat lacked variety and consistency in song quality. I was also somewhat skeptical about James Malone's ability to write a thirteen minute song because songwriting was basically the one weakness of their debut. But this fear was unfounded, as "A Diamond for Disease" never once became even close to being boring. The song just flies through in a flurry of awesome drum beats, manic screams and godly guitar playing.
To put it in simple words, James Malone is THE best guitarist in melodic death metal, quite possibly in metal altogether (Nevermore, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, Steve Vai and Arsis would be pretty hard to compare to each other though since their styles are totally different.). James can play anything that makes good melodeath. Thrashy riffs that are not At the Gates copying, twin leads (see 7:10 in the song for a particularly awesome example of this), guitar harmonies, and something that every metal fan loves - awesome guitar solos. He even gets more than three different guitar parts going in places and doesn't let it fall into a shambled mess, something that not many composers can pull off. He has a great death metal snarl that reminds me of Hypocrisy's Peter Tagtgren's, though a little higher pitched and catchier: it almost compels you to sing "Ohhh! Let's make a deal! A diamond for disease!" along with him.
To wrap this EP up you also get a pretty funny Alice Cooper cover and an old demo that was re-recorded, both good songs in their own right, though A Diamond for Disease is worth the price of an entire album. This is not only a return to the days when melodic death metal bands focused on death metal (tones of blast beats and bass kick are a mark of this) instead of overdosing on catchy melodies but it also blows practically any other melodic death metal release ever out of the water.
PS. This was recorded for Ballet Deviare, which I'm pretty convinced must be the coolest ballet ever.