Archspire - Bleed the Future (Album Review)

Oct. 28, 2021


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Technical death metal has been one of those sub-genres that remains very hit or miss for me, as while almost every band categorized as tech death has some level of impressive musicianship quite a few releases haven’t had anything my brain could latch onto and remember days or even hours afterwards.  The best in the genre have been able to find that sweet spot between brain melting technical prowess and actual hooks that listeners remember consistently, capturing audiences of musicians and non-musicians alike.  Which brings us to Vancouver’s Archspire, who have been able to achieve this with albums like The Lucid Collective and Relentless Mutation that brought rapid fire vocals, brutal fast paced yet downright fun riffs, all wrapped up in a concise package.  Four years have now passed since Relentless Mutation and the band has continued to refine their approach, with Bleed the Future now taking things to an entirely new level.  The shotgun vocals and blistering BPM have all been maintained, but there are more dips into melody and brutal death metal chugging which results in songwriting that is even more memorable.

What has drawn me so much to Archspire and this newest album in particular is how they manage to be approachable and brain melting at the same time.  So often death metal that focuses on being the fastest or most technical ends up coming through as too virtuosic, to the point where you just stand there silently in awe and may or may not remember the details beyond how impressive the playing is.  But these guys bring fun and brutality in equal measure, where the transitions between grooves, chugs, and seemingly impossibly fast blast beats will have you bobbing your head the entire way through (and likely lead to maximum chaos in a live environment).  Compared to their previous three albums, Bleed the Future has a few more moments of pause where some hints of melody take over and there’s more brutal death metal squealing and chugging than I remember.  These subtle shifts are integrated seamlessly into the blasting and blistering solos, and they go a long way in making many of these songs have an individual identity.  Archspire hasn’t drastically changed anything they were doing before, but the subtle injection of some of these slower or mellower moments makes for stronger songwriting that uses every minute to keep listeners engaged.  Whether you focus on specific songs or just let the thirty-one minutes fly by on repeat, there are a ton of riffs, solos, and drum patterns that will keep you coming back.

Vocals sometimes end up being a weak point for tech death bands, as simply jamming your average growler or screamer on top of this super-fast instrumentation doesn’t always click.  This is an area where Archspire has excelled from an early stage, as singer Oliver Rae Aleron uses what he calls shotgun vocals.  This allows him to hit all sorts of guttural growls and higher screams at a rapid fire, accurate cadence where every word is enunciated in a way that makes the lyrics easier to make out, a rarity for death metal vocals at this speed.  Every verse hits hard and is as brutal as you could possibly want, but again the cadence makes it downright fun and keeps everything high energy throughout.  It’s reminiscent of early Slipknot vocals or hip-hop artists like Busdriver but run through a Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation filter, which may still prove to be an acquired taste for some but proved to be incredibly appealing for me.

Archspire hasn’t drastically overhauled their approach, instead making subtle tweaks that take their writing to a new level.  This is still as heavy, brutal, and technical as one could want, but it’s also downright fun and the variation between tempos and occasional stylistic shifts make easier songs easier to pick out compared to the band’s past discography.  I can also appreciate that not a minute is wasted as these guys really make a point to keep things concise and not stretch out their ideas like other bands in the genre.  Archspire has returned after four years stronger, faster, and definitely better, and I’m not sure if any other tech death in 2021 will surpass this high bar.  Bleed the Future is available from Season of Mist.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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