REVIEW: ARCHSPIRE – “Bleed The Future”
Every genre, subgenre, and microgenre has its own list of yardstick artists who either invent a particular interpretation of the genre itself or perfect an existing stereotype thereby becoming its new guardians. Technical death metal is no different. If there was ever a yardstick of stuffing in a nearly absurd number of notes, snare hits, double kicks, cymbal hits, and bass taps into a single track, very few bands could come close to California’s Brain Drill and Montreal’s Beneath the Massacre. Vancouver’s Archspire have boldly stolen that crown in recent times, and have challenged other bands to approach their insane majesty on their brand-new note-fest “Bleed the Future”.
Bleed the Future is Archspire’s fourth record, following 2017’s Relentless Mutation which was regarded as their magnum opus: the record that showed up as the technical death flagship for many painted Archspire as the genre’s poster boys and crash-landed on several Album of The Year lists. Needless to say, any work released after Relentless Mutation would be severely critiqued. It will come as a relief that Bleed the Future takes Relentless Mutation’s winning formula and fine-tunes it to produce a more mature product. This isn’t to say that this record isn’t just as blistering and unforgiving as the last, but there is a sense of a deft hand at play with the songwriting here.
Needing no pretense after three face slapping records, Archspire does not deem it a necessity to hold your hand with a paltry ambient intro, instead dropkicks the listener by way of an opening salvo of sweep picked arpeggios and blast bleats with “Drone Corpse Aviator”. Following is the first and only single at the time of this review “Golden Mouth of Ruin”, and this one is quite a little surprising. Opening with drum circus-ry, Archspire opts for a more chug-rhythm-based approach for this song, before settling into more familiar Beneath the Massacre-y arrangements which we have grown to expect and adore from the cheeky canucks. What was truly special was the “breakdown” on “Golden Mouth..” especially when sprinkled with those consecutive pinch harmonics. Doubters rushed to the comment sections of the music video screaming “deathcore sellouts” to the sections, electing to employ their selective memories as these sections were present even on their pet, Relentless Mutation.
“Abandon the Linear” opts for a lower tempo arpeggio reminiscent of Beyond Creation and even early-The Faceless before saying ‘enough of that’ and pushing us yet again through the riffgrinder. This time the bassist gets in on the action (even more so than on “Golden Mouth of Ruin”) refusing to be backed into the corner by the guitar sections and takes center stage on the interlude. The trick on “Abandon the Linear” is the lumbering melodic solo that instantly becomes the hook of the track. For a band that specializes in making every riff worthy of calling itself a solo, Archspire’s solos take on a more restrained approach, and the solo on “Abandon the Linear” as well as the rest of the solos on Bleed the Future flip the script and allow the riffs to control the tempo and make the solos control the melody to great success!
The most bottom-register heavy track must be the title track “Bleed the Future” and quickly rose to be this reviewer’s personal favorite. Right out of the gate, there is more emphasis laid on straightforward rhythm sections, albeit contorted to Archspire’s trademark level of insanity. The centerfold arrangement of “Bleed the Future” is what makes this track to an instant favorite. The bouncy rhythm with a hummable melody is a welcome break from the barrage of tones and semitones thrown at us for the rest of the runtime. There is something to be said of the appeal of predictability without compromising the density of the writing, and these sections are proof of that claim. “Reverie on the Onyx” expertly co-opts a classical piece of music and perverts it into the tech-death sphere, without losing the original melody. Album closer “A.U.M” begins with a satirical sample before hitting us with more chug mania but expertly cut-in with more tasty acoustic melodies, bass runs, and ambient solos are thrown in.
Very little and so much can and needs to be said about the members in Archspire. Guitarists Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli are absolute wizards at the strings. Dean has made severe efforts over the last few years with his various YouTube and social media endeavors to bring technical death metal writing to the masses while reinforcing the idea that covering Archspire tracks are not for mere mortals. In that regard, Dean and the rest of the lads at Archspire have become the model modern extreme metal bands by putting their wares on full display for us almost in the general challenge for us to engage them on their terms. Bassist Jared Smith gets his moments on Bleed the Future and proves time and time again that tech-death is also a bassist’s playground, with his taps and tricks. The mix allows for him to shine on a few occasions, but there is always a need for more headspace for bass arrangements to cut through in this genre. The two most unique (which is saying a lot) aspects of Archspire are the drums and the vocals. Along with the requisite blast beats and double kicks at absurd tempos, Spencer Prewett’s signature move is the 16th (or maybe 32nd ?) note kickdrums before each successive snare hit, almost mimicking a reverse snare hit, but with a kick pedal. Vocalist Oliver Rae Aleron’s delivery is a signature to Archspire and has yet to be replicated by any other band to the same level of consistency and aggression. His machine-gun delivery of vocals endeavors to match each snare hit of a blast beat, making his style more percussive than melodic. This style is unique but has diminishing returns. The sheer density of the lyrics smashed into a single song, along with this style of staccato delivery lacks any variation in pitch, and can be exhausting when used as frequently as on every track on Bleed the Future. As someone who is no stranger to extreme technical death metal, nigh animalistic vocal ranges, verbose lyrics, and Archspire’s signature style, I found it difficult to a point of near impossibility to keep track of the lyrics, even with the lyrics on hand. More variation on the pitch and tempo would do Oliver and the rest of Archspire a lot of good. Understandably this genre prides itself on its ability to teeter on the edge of accessibility, but this sense of inaccessibility only takes away appeal rather than add to it.
What separates Bleed the Future from previous records in their catalog, is the enhanced focus on lower register chugs. This move may cause the gatekeepers to balk and throw out virulent curses of them turning Deathcore if that could be seen as a slight on the band. These sections do the heavy lifting of separating this noodly section from the next noodly section, and the tracks are better served for it! In addition, the shorter runtime of about thirty-ish minutes goes a long way to reduce complete aural collapse. But the eight tracks are a whirlwind in and unto itself.
The sad reality is that this flavor of technical death metal will be highly polarizing. Undeniable, even to the most ardent of deniers, is the sheer level of proficiency, nay, mastery over their instrument possessed by each of the members in Archspire. On the other hand, even the staunchest of believers would begrudgingly admit that this genre can be extremely fatiguing on the senses over prolonged stretches. The constant pummeling pushes skilled fret and drum work into the realm of white noise, where each of the tracks begins to meld together into one mush however skilled individual arrangements may be. Archspire does its best on Bleed The Future to punctuate the note-filled bludgeoning with melodic, and acoustic sections, but those are few and far between, relatively speaking.
Bleed The Future is a dense and compact body of superlative technical death metal. Archspire continue to prove that they are the crown bearers of their niche of hyperspeed metal, for better or for worse and challenge any other band to approach their collective virtuosity.