Archspire – Relentless Mutation Review

My first encounter with Vancouver, BC’s Archspire was in 2014 at the (apparently) defunct Housecore festival in Austin, TX. They played in a parking lot around midday (or, as Texans say, half-mooned to a cowhide’s dickhole) and the drummer had mirrored heads on his kicks, creating a blinding flash that made that portion of the stage impossible to watch. The bass player, who looked like he was 11, opted to go shirtless, which didn’t help the reflection issues. The dude standing next to me declared, without a hint of self-awareness, that they were the “best fuckin’ band playing this thing.” He was wrong, of course- outside of a pretty nifty vocal delivery Archspire left much to be desired musically in addition to not being able to look directly at ¾ of the stage.

Release date: September 22, 2017.
Label: Season of Mist.
It’s with that in mind that I roundly ignored them until their latest, Relentless Mutation, landed in my inbox (about 15 separate times thanks to the due diligence of the Last Rites staff). In my massive and impressive maturation since the parking lot incident, I’ve learned that a bad live experience doesn’t necessarily bad band make. Archspire have a tasty little set of music here that’s both over-the-top from a technical standpoint and constructed in a manner that creates a solid flow.

First things first: enjoyment of this largely depends on an appreciation of the vocal styling of one Oli Peters. His cadence is rapid-fire and overtly aggressive, as if Bone Thugs n’ Harmony and Tech N9ne started a tech-death project. There are layered vocals a la Glen Benton, and the oldish-school influence is present, but MAN does this cat go off. The way he plays with pronunciations to fit his words beat-by-beat into the song indicates that these pieces are written by the entire band to make the vocals fit rather than having songs brought to the table to write lyrics around.

And on the subject of said songs, Relentless Mutation is… well, it’s tech-death. Inhuman drumwork that’s more triggered than me on Twitter, riffs that range from brutally memorable (“Calamus Will Animate” has a particularly restrained and furious choral section) to over-the-top noodling similar to when Beethoven is going apeshit on the keyboards in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and a bass guitar that has never felt the cold scratch of a pick across its five or six or seven or whatever strings. In general terms it’s all very serviceable, although there’s nothing here that hasn’t been done elsewhere. Innovation isn’t Archspire’s bag– proficiency is. It’s likely that tech-death aficionados will get a kick out of it and maybe a prog fan or two.

Ultimately, Relentless Mutation is a fun and rather short ride. It’s only seven tracks, although there are probably 25,000 words contained therein. The vocal performance SHOULD get the blood pumping unless you’re some kind of idiot that doesn’t like things to be so fast that they’re confusing and intimidating. This will likely find a place in yours truly’s regular DM rotation.

Posted by Chris Redar

I am domesticated as fuck. Follow me on twitter (at) chris_redar and play video games with me on Xbox - PP5oneDOOdoo

  1. It should be little surprise that this wasn’t really in my zone, but MAN I dig that cover art.

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  2. Been listening to this for a while. Personally I can’t get enough of it.

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  3. The vocals sometimes remind me of that System of a Down song.

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  4. This sounds like something I might have written in the 90s when I first discovered I could get my computer to play “metal” on MIDI sequencing software.

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  5. Really enjoying this album, keeps bringing me back in. The guitar work and drumming is phenomenal. Some great youtube clips to go with the new songs.

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  6. What makes this album work so spectacularly is that Archspire writes SONGS. While you are correct that they aren’t doing anything that hasn’t already been done in some way (vox aside, there is no one like Oliver), what they are doing that a lot of tech bands are not is assembling real songs with catchy hooks and even though there is a ton of speed on display they have an incredibly headbangable groove throughout the album. They also keep it short n sweet, so the album ends up not only being catchy and fun but also not at all taxing on the listener. Once it’s done you want to fire it up again. I suggest going to see them live again, now that you’re more familiar. One of the better live bands going.

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