Monday, December 10, 2012

Artas - The Healing

Jemand hat in meinen Koffer geschissen!

Ever come across one of those albums that you enjoy even though you know it's shit?  Like, you can point out specific reasons why it's terrible, why certain ideas don't work and why they never would have, where the band fails and why, but there's some enduring charm that keeps you hooked despite the obvious, glaring flaws.  We all have a few of those.  I have The Sword's debut, despite its awful drum production and lazy vocals, Arsis's United in Regret despite hilariously feeble themes and slapdash songwriting, and a few others I plan on getting to in the future.  And then there is Artas.  What Arnold Schwarzenegger is to acting, these Austrian dorks are to music .  They're not very good, but god bless them they're trying.  Their failure is in a way, the exact reason they're so entertaining.  Nobody can deliver a hammy one-liner quite like Arnie can, and not many bands can rip off both The Crown and Disturbed in three separate languages in the same song.  Give Arnie a giant machine gun and watch him eat Green Berets for breakfast; give Artas a big, silly breakdown and watch them play it twice as fast as they're supposed to.  Arnold is the king of silly, over-the-top action flicks, something that sucks on a purely cinematic standpoint.  The stories are cliche and dumb and the acting is usually awful, but the violence is ridiculous on Tom and Jerry levels and are packed with so much comedy (intentional and not) that they're just a blast to watch, and you'll never catch me turning down an opportunity to watch The Running Man.  Artas takes two cliched and played out styles (metalcore and nu metal) and throws about four songs too many at you, but mixes in a healthy dose of death/thrash attitude and riffing, polyglot lyrics, and the stupidest shit imaginable played with the most headstrong enthusiasm you're bound to ever hear.

The nu metal influence is a huge turnoff to most, and I'm firmly in the camp that really doesn't like it at all apart from fleeting moments of nostalgia from when I was eleven years old and had a mohawk because I'm a special kind of idiot.  But the way the influences are presented on The Healing are so earnest and blended so confidently with the highly metallic metalcore ala As I Lay Dying and the high speed death/thrash influences like my beloved The Crown (never name your band "The [singular noun]", it makes sentences awkward as fuck) that it never really feels all that out of place.  This was their plan all along, they just dug this style as much as the others and made it work somehow.  "Through Dark Gates" could straight up be a Korn song (unsurprisingly it's the worst track on the album), but much like "AAA" from one of my absolute favorites, Strapping Young Lad's City it's merely one strange quirk that sticks out in the grand scheme of things.  Then there's "Kontrol", which is the otherwise most overtly nu metal influenced track, but the goofy, Turisas-style chorus of "LA LA LA LAAA LA LA LALA LA LA" is such an ohrwurm that I can't stay mad at it, despite the rest of the song sounding like it a b-side to The Sickness.

But strip the nu metal influence away and you're left with a very heavy and thrashy take on metalcore, somewhat akin to what Fedhja did before mercifully splitting up two years ago.  The title track is one of the most obvious examples of what I guess you could call their signature style, if such a thing exists.  It's really and truly an As I Lay Dying styled metalcore song with a strong thrash bent, a catchy chorus, big breakdown, and strange nu metally "BWIP!  BWIP!" vocal flourishes that he spits during transition riffs.  That's what The Healing really is down at its core, it's a bizarre mixture of three or four styles that are all apparently related juuuuust enough to prevent the album from sounding like a hackneyed mess.  I keep using the same couple bands for reference, but that's really what this sounds like.  Take the core elements of The Haunted, The Crown, As I Lay Dying, and Disturbed and put them together, that's Artas.

I can't stress enough how catchy The Healing is, it's stupid but I find myself quietly singing the choruses to "Barbossa", "The Healing", and "I Am Your Judgment Day" under my breath when I think nobody can hear me.  They all feature the same elements I've been gabbing on about, and they're all stupid and fun.  For some, the first word there can really turn some people off, and I don't blame them.  The lyrics are juvenile as hell at times.  Hell, take a look at the few English lines in "Bastardo" (a song entirely sung in Spanish)

Don’t care about the familia
Give a fuck about the policía
Your rules cause diarrhea
My amigos smoke sensimilla

And that's the chorus... Yeah it can be a problem.  If I could speak/read/understand Spanish or German, the other two languages used heavily throughout the album (I'd say it's maybe 40% German, 30% Spanish, 30% English) I'm sure I'd be able to find dozens of other stupid sections.  I mean hell, they cover Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise".  Just... right there in the middle of the album like it ain't no thang.  And weirdly enough it actually fits, thanks to the ever prevalent nu metal influence.

If this review has turned you off and made you believe The Healing is destined to be awful, then welcome to the club.  I'm amazed I like this at all, it has so many components that are made of nothing but pure failure incarnate, but I can't help but enjoy it for it's starry eyed enthusiasm.  This is a very earnest and well meaning record, despite how silly it can be at times, and that's why I like it.  Artas is a band of youthful exuberance and enthusiastic vibrancy, and it shows here.  I never once doubt for a second that these guys couldn't give less of a shit about their peers or "haters" (man I hate that term) if they tried.  They're doing this because they love it, not because it might make them money.  I feel like there's a pure hearted naivete behind the music, and that's very charming.  Despite the weird choices and juvenile ideas and nu metal influence, I can't help but find The Healing to be rather endearing.  I don't expect most people reading this to like it, but the fact remains that in spite of myself, I do, and I find that it's a lot of fun to spin.  NO SHAME.

RATING - 75%

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