If ever there were a hit-or-miss subgenre of metal, it would have to be technical death metal. It is incredibly difficult to write intricate music that still retains some semblance of songwriting. Even worse, many metal fans are concerned with riffs, and there’s no shortage of tech-death bands that only play sweeps and leads. Fortunately, Canada’s Archspire definitely put forth one of the best efforts in this style in a long time with their new record “Relentless Mutation”. This band has a somewhat unique element with their vocalist, who can spit out words with unbelievable speed and accuracy. He puts pretty much every other singer to shame on “Involuntary Doppelgänger”, as he matches lightning fast blastbeats hit-for-hit with his words. This approach sums up a large part of Archspire’s appeal: they are a rhythmic juggernaut. There is perfect sync between the vocals, drums, and rhythm guitars, to the point where each riff feels like a punch in the face. The result is plenty of stop/start moments that make the record feel spastic and out of control, yet completely in control at the same time.
“Relentless Mutation” does feature a lot more predictable technical death metal tropes as well. It has plenty of wandering lead guitars, which, admittedly, are constructed better than most of the band’s peers could do. It actually feels like Archspire made a concerted effort to write melodies that make sense instead of ones that are just technical. Often times these leads will conclude with a quick sweep or other impressive display of talent. The band’s bassist tends to get in on the fun once in a while, with “Human Murmuration” being his finest hour. Fortunately, the bass isn't as over-the-top as in some other bands of this style, which is important because there's simply too much going on in Archspire's music to compete.
As the album soldiers on, it doesn’t falter. While “Involuntary Doppelgänger” and “Remote Tumour Seeker” are the clear highlights, every song brings a similar mix of quality and absurdity. At just over 30 minutes, the album doesn’t offer an opportunity for the listener to get bored. It just constantly bludgeons you over the head with something new. Even the short clean guitar interludes work because they come after a constant barrage of blastbeats, and often lead to yet another one. It’s worth mentioning that drummer Spencer Prewett is probably the most inhuman-sounding drummer in metal today. Sometimes these types of drummers can get boring, but somehow he manages to mix things up enough to keep things fresh (even if he has more snare and bass drum hits in 30 minutes than most drummers do in their career). All members of a tech-death band are talented, but this guy is just on another level (along with Archspire’s singer). Overall, “Relentless Mutation” is an absolutely essential piece of technical death metal that far outshines what most of the crowd is doing, and truly shows the subgenre’s potential!
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"Remote Tumour Seeker"
"A Dark Horizontal"
4.6/5 or 92%.