When I first heard this Swedish Melodeath band back in early 2009 on sophomore effort The Cancer Empire, I was impressed if not totally blown away. The album had a very respectable Hypocrisy-inspired vibe. Well-produced, heavy, melodically rich, and while not entirely original, it provided a handful of enjoyable listens before being archived and ultimately forgotten. After a week’s worth of spinning Arrival of the Red Sun, I’m not 100% certain if it’s the band or myself that has changed, but either way this follow-up does absolutely nothing for me. It could be that those three-plus years of living the life least imagined has lessened the allure of bouncy, futuristic-sounding Death Metal. It could be that I saw the band’s recent promo photos —dressed up as some kind of gay pride Mad Max refugees in a Photoshopped apocalyptic wasteland— and subconsciously wrote them off beforehand. It could be that the past ten months spent listening to depressive masterpieces by Alcest, Pallbearer, Evoken, Katatonia, and An Autumn for Crippled Children have made anything less seem like a Barney & Friends sing-along by comparison. Or it could be that the group’s songwriting has simply gone south. The happy faggot grooves that stain throwaway tracks like “Gunpoint Salvation,” “The Blood That Must Be Paid,” and “My Vengeance Remains” would certainly suggest the latter. Whatever the case, Arrival fails to impress on any level, unless of course you’re seeking the perfect Death Metal album to play Double Dutch to. Indistinguishable lightweight arrangement follows indistinguishable lightweight arrangement ad nauseum. Insert gay guitar solo, insert fagspeak, insert AIDS-infected synth, felch and repeat. There isn’t a split second of darkness, pain, or brutality on display here. You might as well be listening to that Kenny Loggins song from Caddyshack for 40 minutes. The absolute nicest thing I can say is that Simon Berglund’s vocals still sound fairly razor sharp. But all the decent pipes, super-sleek production, chops, and Armageddon-themed lyrics in the world couldn’t save this syrup enema.
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