The 2014 Arsies: January 10, 2014

January 10, 2014

One thing I may not have mentioned earlier is that, honest and true, every single album in the Arsies deserves accolades. There are no losers here, only non-super-winners. To that end, every single first-round elimination is a tough one. And some days, like today, are tougher than others. But let's get on with it. Anciients win the cointoss, so we start with them.
Anciients are a curious band to assess without some warning. It's so very easy to write them off as a Mastodon clone, a sludgey-come-lately like many others that seem to be littering the metal landscape of late. But their first full-length album, Heart Of Oak, is a slippery and tenacious masterwork, one of the most surefooted debuts to come out this year. The album is a lumbering monster; half the tracks are over 7 minutes long, luring you in with slow intros and buildups before inevitably letting loose (take the first two minutes of Giants, for example). Now, to be fair, the resemblance to Mastodon is unavoidable. But the sound is tinged with something more clever, twisted, progressive, and ambitious. If the comparison needs to be made, so be it: Anciients sound like Mastodon dipped in Opeth (with a sprinkle of old Megadeth for seasoning), and Heart Of Oak is a better album than either actual Mastodon album of the last five years. As a bonus, the album ends with For Lisa, a touch of class evocative of Clam Caravan. It's like a tumbler of smooth Scotch at the end of a long day.
Which takes us to The Dillinger Escape Plan... and with Prancer they break that bottle of Scotch over your head. Now, to be fair, One Of Us Is The Killer is no huge departure from the DEP experience; it's very obviously within their brutal, riotous wheelhouse. What the album is, however, is a collection of incremental gains. The songs here are ever so more cohesive than those on Option Paralysis, a touch less Mr. Bungle and a smidge more Refused. The production is slightly more polished. The songwriting is even -- dare I say it -- more mature, with more of an emphasis on melody and restraint over smashing ill-fitting puzzle pieces together. It all comes together in DEP's most accessible album, a set that still delivers their trademark coke-addled aggression while giving you the occasional chance to make sense of it all. One Of Us Is The Killer is a memorable tour de force, and with it the Dillinger Escape Plan overwhelm Anciients and take the win.
That's it for this week! Next week, we've got a fresh contest: metalcore veterans Killswitch Engage take on Danish cacophoneers The Psyke Project.

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