2004 Willowtip Records
01. The Face Of My Innocence (MP3
02. Maddening Disdain
03. Seven Whispers Fell Silent
05. Worship Depraved
06. Carnal Ways To Recreate the Heart
07. Dust And Guilt
08. Elegant And Perverse
09. The Sadistic Motives Behind Bereavement Letters
10. Looking To Nothing
11. Wholly Night
by Adam Hellbound
I have a really shitty pair of headphones. They came with the MP3 CD player I received for my birthday last year, and as such they’ve seen quite a bit of use. Considering the relative quality of their construction, they’ve lasted quite a while; otherwise, there’s really no basis for recommending them. The reason I mention this is that the first time I was exposed to "A Celebration Of Guilt," it was through these headphones. Since that first time, I’ve heard the album on nearly every stereo setup you could imagine – in my car, on my home system, and on the (pretty fucking awesome) system at my job. I have yet to find a place or occasion in which this album sounds anything less than absolutely brilliant.
Months prior to the release of "A Celebration Of Guilt," there was a fair amount of hype growing in response to the two preview tracks posted on Willowtip Records’ website. While those songs were impressive, even removed from the context of the record proper, they exceed their promise by several orders of magnitude when heard as part of the living, breathing document they were intended to comprise. I’ve lived with the album for quite a while now, listening to it almost every day, and one of the many things that stand out is how well the record coheres; not one note, not one beat seems out of place. It is a rare feat indeed to compose an album that towers so massively over its peers, but even rarer for it to serve doubly as a monument to the very essence of songcraft.
“Dust And Guilt” is a perfect example of the quality discussed above. I can’t really think of another song that sounds like it, and yet it feels like I’ve known the song forever. Fuzzed-out guitars pick out a unique, bracing melody while evocative, pitch-perfect vocals gasp the line “Sensations, curse me and my ways / Force-feed me blind on empty days;” a slight pause, then a massive, roiling eruption of frenzied, serpentine riffs and propulsive drumming. “Return,” another standout track, forgoes any introduction and instead bursts out of the gate with a gut-wrenching riff slightly reminiscent of Dissection at their most melodic point, and At the Gates at their most caustic; in the relatively concise duration of the track, Arsis seem to throw every trick in the book at you, adding some of their own for good measure. The solo alone is jaw-dropping.
The structure of “Return” mirrors much of the structure of the album itself. "A Celebration Of Guilt," taken as a whole, is a churning, tightly-controlled mixture of the best elements of nearly every style of metal, from black to death to thrash to classic British metal and beyond. Arsis displays an inventiveness and sense of imagination that never once ceases or disappoints. It is this quality, even more so than the technical wizardry displayed, or the sheer brute ferocity of the album, which makes an impression.could talk for hours about the placement of Michael Van Dyne’s cymbal accents during the first minute of “Looking To Nothing,” or the perfect pattern of triplets that introduces “Maddening Disdain,” but it’s so much more enjoyable to sit back and simply marvel at the beauty of an album coming together exactly as I hoped it would.
Bottom Line: For years, countless bands have strip-mined the fertile grounds of inspiration cultivated by bands like At The Gates, Dissection, late-period Carcass, Emperor, Death, and so many others. Here, then, are the true heirs to the innovation and glory of metal; indeed, as the press material claims, a case could be made that this album reaches and even exceeds the heights of ATG's masterpiece, "Slaughter Of The Soul." Simply put, this is an album that transcends the elements which comprise it. Craft, ingenuity and genuine love for the form bleed from every note. "A Celebration Of Guilt" is certainly one of the best metal albums of our time, and stands to take its place in the canon of history as one of the best metal albums ever made, period. Even through a shitty pair of headphones.