I first became aware of South Dakotans March in Arms three years ago when this debut album was first released and was under consideration for my Crusade of Power column. I wasn’t able to find room for the record at the time, so it’s a delight to be given a second chance to throw the spotlight on this excellent record, now being reissued by the band, again on their own label.
In simple terms I guess you could argue a case for calling March in Arms the American Sabaton, so obsessed are they by warfare in all it’s forms. However that would probably do both bands a disservice, so I’ll refrain from doing so and focus on the fact that MIA are rather a good band in their own right. The band purveys a muscly, thrash-inspired brand of American power metal for the most part, but thankfully stay away from overegging the heaviness pudding, preferring always to insert massive slabs of melody where many bands would content themselves with mindless sturm und drang. Hence prime-time Metallica often springs to mind when listening to tracks like the dramatic Overlord or The Knife.
That said, the basic template can sound a bit samey, and often the band churn out riffs seemingly for the sake of it, meaning a couple of the songs seem a bit overlong if truth be told.
However, when the band hits the bullseye, it stays hit. Tracks like the awkwardly-titled Empty Pleads and I Am Death are quite superb, with singer Ryan Knutson leading at front and centre with intelligent lyrics and superb phrasing and melodies. The band boasts three guitarists, and that heavyweight tri-pronged assault shines through often, with the band knowing a mighty chug when it hears one.
There’s nothing overly complicated here, just punchy, well put-together if sometimes familiar-sounding metal, and even people who own the album already can get involved again as the band have generously tacked on a couple of live bonus tracks at the end of the album to keep even long term fans coming back for more. It’s a win-win situation for all concerned!
March In Arms is available again from November 20th.