Archspire are absolutely the kings of relentless technical death metal, but how much of a mutation is their latest full-length really? Their first full-length was crude, masturbatory and totally average. Their 2014 release showed marked improvement while still relying on silly gimmicks, which they clearly didn’t need, to write interesting songs. ‘The Lucid Collective’ was absolutely a more reasonably-paced second album. On this third album tech death’s toughest single-handed drum rollers have continued to refine their pacing and arrangement of hyper-technical, ultra-high speed death metal ideas to near perfection. The additional eight string djent-ish chugs and bonking slower moments feel chic, modern and heavy even at 350bpm. Comparisons to Necrophagist or Origin are not really viable anymore. Although the music is clinical, aggressive and highly technical ‘Relentless Mutation’ sees the band at their most focused in creating underlying groove with the drums often give the illusion of slowing down. The album doesn’t totally avoid the ‘needled’ irritating clicky hyper-speed drumming feeling that drives away a lot of death metal fans. This style of drumming is exemplar virtuosity and not entirely soulless.
The experience reminds me of the first Spawn of Possession album ‘Cabinet‘ though the approach is again, heavily informed by modern progressive/djent technical extreme metal trends. The grand irony of praising mutant-level technical ability for being thoughtful a third of the damn time is kind of sickening to me, but I have to commend some level of improving taste in the anti-musical practice of technical death metal. Archspire practice such pleasant, groovy restraint they almost appear transcendent to their deathcore-happy peers. ‘Relentless Mutation’ is a high watermark for technical death metal and it retains the soul of death metal despite how robotic the performances are.
The longer I listen, the more times I press play on the album, I find that the appeal of it is almost entirely the machinated execution of the album. The melodic statements or ‘grooves’ on the record do not stand out amidst the pecking drums and bludgeoning guitar. The bigger picture is still showmanship before musical expression, hence the djent references and metered chugging. This isn’t said out of controversy or derision. I actually like these types of soul-lite, hammer-your-face-with-notes albums quite a bit in moderation. The reality is unavoidable, though, that I simply never got the chills during the fifteen spins I gave this album these last few weeks. It is infectious and wildly impressive, though, and deserves your full attention.
|Released||September 22, 2017|
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