Arsis gets signed on to Nuclear Blast and they release what many people still consider to be the best album Arsis has ever released. We are the Nightmare is one of the most influential and well-perceived technical death albums of all-time. Once they were given the freedom to let their creative juices flow out and drench their new music, Arsis sat down and spent almost the entire year of 2008 writing material for the next record. This was their chance to show that Willowtip Records was limiting them and that Arsis had so much more to offer than what their previous record label was letting them do. Even though this is probably my favorite Arsis release, it was the last one that I bothered to get for some reason that probably wouldn’t be good enough no matter how much I put it.
Before I looked up this album, I was looking at their tacky music video for “Forced to Rock” and I saw numerous comments saying things like “We are the Nightmare is better!” and “Why the hell did they make a different version of We are the Nightmare?” One of my friends at school told me that Forced to Rock is actually just a different version of the song We are the Nightmare! So at that point I decided I had procrastinated long enough and I bought the CD. I listened to the title track and it doesn’t sound ANYTHING like Forced to Rock! There are absolutely no similarities between the two songs; they’re in different keys, they have completely different lyrics, none of the notes are the same, and I didn’t see anything on Arsis’ website confirming that Forced to Rock really is a different version of We are the Nightmare. So now that I’ve got that figured out, I can focus on the almost incomprehensible beauty of this doughnut-shaped shiny piece of plastic.
The most ironic thing about this album is that Arsis left Willowtip Records because they were forcing the band to just make technical music when at the time; Arsis’ creative interests were going in a different direction. To then join Nuclear Blast to create the most technical record they’ve ever written! I know that everyone goes through music phases where they get interested in a certain kind of music for a couple of months or so. Like for example, I’ll have times where for almost a month, power metal is almost all I listen to; nothing else feels satisfying enough. And then I’ll all of a sudden get into the deathcore vibe. I believe that Arsis’ creative/songwriting interests were going through a phase that Willowtip and most of the critics didn’t really like; and then the phase ended a little bit before they started writing We are the Nightmare. So that kind of says that technicality is in Arsis’ blood; it’s not truly Arsis without having some technicality (which their 2005 EP had, just not nearly as much as we were accustomed to).
The sound of the guitar distortion on this album is very unique. The only other album that I can think of that has a guitar distortion similar to this one is Arsis’ 2010 record, Starve for the Devil. It sounds really interesting; there’s almost no crunch at all (in other words it’s a very clean distortion, but for some reason you can tell it’s highly distorted). Also, there is zero reverb on all of the instruments, which in all cases makes the band sound 1000 times tighter. There is the classic Arsis sound of primarily playing mid-ranged to high-pitched chords instead of the traditional death metal style of playing a lot of down-tuned, low chords. The complexity of the song structure is beyond anything I can begin to break down for you and make it even sound slightly understandable. This album is similar to United in Regret in the sense of the complexity of the song structure, but what’s different between the two is that We are the Nightmare is much less confusing and overwhelming, therefore making it much easier to follow.
The vocalist’s screams seem to be getting better and better with each album. His lyrics also seem to go off in their own unique direction. Their first two albums have prominent themes of depression and inner-struggles. We are the Nightmare drifts away from self-anger and goes towards the retaliation of the ones that have caused all the depression and inner-struggles. So this is an album that the vocalist used to vent out his anger towards his enemies.
Another thing that I would like to point out is that the lineup that formed before the writing process of this album still remains unchanged; which shows that there is a lack of disagreement and tension amongst the members and that they are all happy right where they are. And ever since they stuck with that lineup, they’ve been releasing the best albums they’ve ever written. This monstrous record deserves my high score of 18/20 making it basically flawless, but still leaving some room to see if they can make something even more astonishing.