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.
Label: Season of Mist.
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.