James Malone has spent the better part of the last five years preparing for Arsis’ new album, “Visitant”. Not that the guitarist/vocalist/primary creative force has had a lot of time to follow-up 2013’s savagely good “Unwelcome” album. He’s been intimately involved in the unexpected explosion of supergroup Necromancing the Stone and teaching guitar at the School of Rock. Additionally, sideman Brandon Ellis ended up joining death metallers The Black Dahlia Murder. Between Malone and Ellis’ non-Arsis responsibilities, new material was put on the proverbial backburner. But that all changes with Visitant. Indeed, Arsis’ return is a welcome one. It took a while for Malone to get his groove back, but after completing “As Deep as Your Flesh,” “Easy Prey,” and “Tricking the Gods” songs started falling out of the Arsis frontman. The partnership with Ellis also proved to be wickedly good. While Malone was writing on his end, Ellis was crafting the next generation of “Carve My Cross,” “We Are the Nightmare,” “Choking on Sand,” and “The Ten of Swords.” Between the two songwriters, drummer Shawn Priest also chimed in, resurrecting “Death Vow” from the Arsis vaults for Malone to reconfigure. While at first the follow-up to “Unwelcome” seemed over the horizon, once the principles of Arsis moved on “Visitant”, the songs materialized quickly. The difference between “Unwelcome” and “Visitant” is subtle yet profound. On one hand, Malone is comfortable in his own skin now. On the other, Malone’s guitar mentoring at School of Rock has revealed valuable songwriting or songcrafting lessons for the shredder. Before he was taking cues from Gary Marx (Sisters of Mercy), Ihsahn (Emperor), and Tony MacAlpine, but thanks to School of Rock his exposure to music he doesn’t like—but appreciates the musicality of it—has increased dramatically. For a band that Malone started in college, Arsis has risen through the ranks relatively unscathed. They’ve become part of the fabric of top-tier bands vying to blow fans away and best their previous record. Arsis has set the bar high for bands entering not just their space—mélange of melody, aggression, brutality, and virtuosity—but for just about any upstart looking to be the next riff slayer. With Visitant, Arsis are blazing through new trails and blasting over genre-imposed limitations. Watch out! Arsis are back!