My personal relationship with hardcore and death metal music has always been a love and hate one. On one hand, I love the epic song structure, the atonal chords, the lightning guitar riffs, and the often highly intelligent lyrics; on the other hand, it bothers me that you can’t understand a word of the lyrics because the “singer” insists on bellowing and screaming whilst giving the middle finger to melody. The impression I’m always left with is that none of the band members know how to sing and they’ve rochambeaued amongst themselves to elect someone to stand front stage and tear their vocal chords into oblivion. I do realize, however, that if your band is pounding out riffs that make beasts of the underworld proud, the last thing you want is a crooning singer that makes you sound like a band of pussies.
Arsonists Get All the Girls don’t sound like pussies, and The Game of Life, their sophomore effort, has almost brought me to terms with fully enjoying hardcore music. My epiphany: just think of the vocals as another instrument.
Songs like “Taiwanese Troft Trouble” won me over, with machine-like syncopated vocal combined with grinding guitar and keyboard riffs in a kick ass groove. The instrumental prowess is definitely there, too. “Cuffed to Your Ankles” has great guitar harmonies and an epic interlude/outro; “Shoeshine” bounces from guitar to keyboard licks with pinpoint accuracy; “13 Year Old Ruby” starts off like a King Crimson prog-metal song, and serves as proof that drummer Garin can do a lot more than just have a seizure on the double bass pedal. These guys can definitely play, and in the end that’s what it’s all about. You, of course, can’t understand a word they’re yelling, but as long as you’re cool with that, you’re gonna be cool with The Game of Life.