There’s a running joke within the metal community that, to be a successful technical death metal band, the following checklist must be met in its entirety:
- Supernatural album cover art
- Lyrical themes detailing mankind’s war with alien life forms
- A tempo of at least 260 beats per minute (BPM) in each song
- Triggered–and, therefore, absurdly synthetic-sounding–double-bass drum work
- Guitar complexity verging on onanism
Alas, there are bands within the genre that more than meet the criteria for essentially being a caricture of what a technical death metal outfit truly should be. That said, there are also a number of bands that legitimately blow your mind through a fusion of impossibly complex musicianship and surprisingly existential lyrics. Archspire, to be sure, is one such band.
Part of Archspire’s appeal is the band’s decision to embrace its identity as a formative influence within the technical death metal scene. Indeed, the band regularly tags its social media posts with #StayTech, and Oliver–Archspire’s vocalist–has been known to command frenzied live audiences to “form a triangle pit,” a mathematically-inspired, humorous satire of a metal concert staple, the circle pit.
Most importantly, the Canadian quintet’s sophomore release–2014’s The Lucid Collective–makes a compelling bid to bear the torch for the technical death metal genre as a whole. Over the course of 34 mind-bending minutes, Archspire embodies everything right about the genre to which the band belongs. Guitarists Dean and Tobi unleash a surprisingly harmonic cacophony with eight- and seven-string guitars, respectively. The electric fury on the fret board is more than just unadulterated speed, though make no mistake–these fellas can fly. Satisfyingly, the raw aggression of such a breakneck tempo is expertly balanced by melodic guitar leads in each of the album’s tracks, providing an additional depth and feel often missing from insanely fast metal compositions.
Spencer, the band’s bass guitarist, is given ample opportunity to shine, with his instrument pleasingly audible and his fingers obviously nimble. Of course, Archspire’s brilliance is fundamentally driven by the drumming prowess of Chris, whose gravity blasts on a beautifully-tuned snare drum further pummel the listener’s ears while his double-bass footwork nearly makes one’s body shake.
The aforementioned Oliver utilizes a unique and rarely-encountered vocal technique–half bark, half rap, yet extremely intelligible and matched perfectly to the fury of the music behind him. Furthermore, his lyrics offer a refreshing take on many of the dilemmas of our existence. From the song “The Plague of Am”:
[Cogito ergo sum -I think therefore I AM.]
One hundred and nine years,
Trapped within the belly of the supreme machine.
Only us five left.
Made immortal, kept alive, suspending time to torture us.
Trapped down here, we’re slaves inside AM.
A deranged neo-cyber god that man created
Has become more alive then we are.
I have no mouth and I must…
(The plague of AM.)
Lifeless and drained of blood,
Suspended high above,
An empty body hangs,
Taunting us, teasing us.
We have become meaningless.
He will not finish us.
AM will not tolerate attempts at escape.
We gave to him life; for that he despises us.
In his wake, only the blasted skin of what had once been Earth.
As we rummage through the valleys in search of food for eons
Our every fear comes to life in AM.
The torments AM casts upon us for his pleasure
Are more alive than we are.
From the standpoint of mere technical complexity, The Lucid Collective is as impressive as modern extreme metal gets. And yet, it is Archspire’s uniqueness, the band’s decision to stray from the technical death metal boilerplate by including frequent guitar leads and deploying a deceptively difficult, entirely unique vocal style that makes the Canada five-piece outfit so emblematic of a genre often mired in unintentional self-parody. They’ve got talent in spades, but it’s the catchy nature of Archspire’s music and its potential for multiple repeat listenings that truly sets the band apart.
Bands so immensely talented deserve your support, so be sure to support the band by purchasing The Lucid Collective or Archspire apparel from the group’s online store. Furthermore, follow the band on Facebook and subscribe to their YouTube channel. And, of course, #StayTech.