Monthly Archives: April 2016

#StayTech: Defining a Genre with Canada’s Archspire

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 archspiretruly 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.

 

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What I’m Listening To: Week of 04/24-04/30/2016 (Jason)

A selection of the songs I’m listening to this week, along with accompanying album and genre information:

— Jason

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Unclean Meat: “Human Abuse” Definitely Isn’t Kosher

When the staff of MetalAteMyBaby.com initially began compiling the best releases of 2015–the records that would be featured by the blog itself–the notion that the latest effort by a two-vocalist deathcore outfit from Italy would make the cut seemed, well, absurd.  The band’s name alone–The Juliet Massacre–triggered reflexive cringe control, and the group’s previous effort was at times sophomoric an1395262_10151966476847517_748997899_nd embarrassing.

And then there’s the pig squeals.  To be sure, when properly employed, this particular vocal style can be effective and enjoyable, as evidenced by its selective use within the brutal death metal genre.  The Juliet Massacre, however, comes a squeal or two short of making the technique a featured instrument in virtually every song–and, quite simply, even for some of metal’s most weathered veterans, it’s just too much.

The thing is, 2015’s Human Abuse has a lot to offer.  For starters, fundamentals such as song structure, riff quality, and general catchiness of the music have dramatically improved since the band last pressed an album.  You won’t find anything revolutionary on this release–but you will find a solid 36 minutes of thoroughly enjoyable deathcore, the kind you unwittingly find yourself nodding your head to while listening at the gym or sitting at your office desk.  And for all the metal community debate regarding the overuse of the aforementioned pig squeals, the vocals, as a whole, are surprisingly refined.

More specifically, the band’s two vocalists seamlessly blend traditional death growls, harmonic cleans, raspy hardcore-esque yells–and, of course, the squeals.  As mentioned, the squeals are utilized almost instrumentally; in other words, instead of using the technique to convey lyrical content, most of the squeals are done in a sort of harmony with each song’s instrumentation and rhythm.  Not every deathcore band could pull it off, but The Juliet Massacre does–almost addictively, in fact.

The rest of the lineup is solid and effective, if not spectacular.  Human Abuse does not feature a single guitar solo, something not particularly uncommon in the deathcore genre but unfortunate nevertheless, as several songs would benefit nicely from additional melodic elements.  The guitarists are predictably downtuned, yet avoid the repetitive and stupefyingly boring chug-chug pattern present in so many modern deathcore releases.  The drums are on point, with a nicely-tuned snare and realistic-sounding double-bass blasts.

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BFG Track by Track: “Once We Were” (Part 1 of 12)

Whether you’re Christian or not, the Easter holiday brings with it a spirit of rebirth, a hope for redemption and a faith that our sacrifices in this life are not in vain.  So, too, does the haunting seventh track of Bound for Glory’s 25th-anniversary album, Death and Defiance: Entitled”Once We Were,” the song painfully reflects on the two catastrophic global conflicts of the 20th century that took more than 80 million lives,reshaped borders across Europe, Africa, and the Far East, and ultimately ushered in the regimes, policies, legislation, and popular media that have all but doomed those of European descent to extinction.

As Joel, Bound for Glory’s lead vocalist, sorrowfully asks in the second quartet of the song’s chorus:

Once we were brothers
Side by side, we were family
Why did we ever fight over borders
When none of us are free?

The somber tone of the song is further enhanced by searing guitar leads performed by Drew and Goose, Bound for Glory’s two rhythm guitarists.

The true causes for each conflict are complex.  Regrettably, World War II has been sold to generations as “The Good War,” with what Tom Brokaw described as “The Greatest Generation” leaving their homes in America to venture halfway across the world to vanquish the twin evils of Germany and Japan.  Nevertheless, Americans have been left with countless questions–the answers to which exist, though often too unpleasantly for most to accept:

The questions, indeed, are endless, the answers available–but the outcome of both wars cannot be undone.  Ultimately, the only question that remains is the one asked by William Gayley Simpson as the title of his 758-page masterwork: Which Way, Western Man?  Will we continue to blindly serve our democratic masters, fighting wars that benefit a chosen few?  Or will we learn from the past, find the truth, and unite to ensure something so destructively tragic as World Wars I and II never happen again?

Which way, western man?

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BFG Track by Track: “Stockholm Burning” (Part 2 of 12)

[Author’s note: Bound for Glory lead guitarist Ed provided me with additional documentation pertaining to the crisis in Sweden.  I have incorporated his research into the post below.]

“The experiment has failed: A good will to no avail”

The initial two lines of “Stockholm Burning,” the thundering first track from Bound for Glory’s 25th-anniversary album, Death and Defiance, sum up Sweden’s national nightmare succinctly.  The Scandinavian nation’s 30-year campaign to diversify its population has gone horribly wrong, and one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth now bears the brutal scars of multiculturalism with no signs the bleeding will ever stop.

Sweden’s government has long sought to be among the most progressive in all of  Europe, and the nation’s descent into cosmopolitan chaos began several decades ago when the government began offering financial incentives to potential immigrants of non-European origin in a bid to diversify the Scandinavian country’s traditionally Nordic composition.  Footing the bill? Native Swedes, who were also forced through taxation to provide housing and education opportunities for these immigrants–opportunities that they, as native Swedes, were ineligible to receive despite having legal residency and being responsible for the lion’s share of the tax burden for these suicidally progressive ideas.

Furthermore, the Swedish government in 2014 passed a law making it illegal for citizens to criticize the country’s disastrous immigration policies.  Even more alarming, former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt publicly declared that Sweden’s borders are arbitrary and that the country belongs to the immigrants, not the native Swedish population.

As Sweden’s demographic makeup changed, so, too, did the country’s reputation as one of the world’s safest places to live.  The BBC reported in 2012 that the rate of rapes committed in Sweden was the second-highest in the world and had tripled between 2003 and 2010.  In Sweden, 63 rapes are committed per 100,000 residents; to put this into perspective, in India, only two rapes are committed per every 100,000 residents.  The United Nations even issued a report declaring that Sweden will be a third-world country by 2030.

Furthermore, despite the government’s attempt to portray such violent crimes as random and isolated, Sweden’s published crime statistics between 1997-2001 indicate that a full 25% of all crimes were committed by individuals born in the Middle East or Eastern Europe, with a full 20% perpetrated by individuals with a foreign background living in Sweden.  The outmatched Swedish police force has identified 55 “no-go” zones that law enforcement personnel will not enter because criminal gangs are in complete control of the areas.

Though Sweden refuses to publish statistics documenting crimes committed by immigrants, independent agencies such as the BBC–who, as mentioned, documented that the rate of rapes in Sweden is the second-worst in the entire world–continue to report the atrocities occuring on the streets of Stockholm on a daily basis. Incredibly,the risk of being raped in one’s lifetime in Sweden is one in four.

In one particularly gruesome incident, a woman was repeatedly gang-raped at gunpoint near Tensta:

The girl is traumatized after brutal assault and currently lives in a sheltered accommodation.

The rapes took place on 19 June near Tensta. The men gang-raped the girl while one of them – an unidentified person – put a gun on her face and threatened to kill her if she did not stop screaming.

When they had finished raping the girl, the man pressed the gun in her vagina, causing damage and heavy bleeding. Then two of the men drove the girl to a basement room in Rinkeby where they gang-raped her again.

In the morning, the girl managed to get out of the basement and was found by er father who was out looking for her.

“When he found her, she sat on a lawn and was shocked, crying and in panic with bloodied clothes. She seemed scared as a hunted prey and just wanted to get away from there,” reads the judgment.

After the incident, the girl was so traumatized and afraid of the perpetrators that she has been forced to move to a shelter.

On Thursday the Solna District Court sentenced immigrant men for the aggravated rape. One of them, a 21-year-old, was sentenced to five years in prison, while a 19-year-old gets two and a half years in prison. A 18-year-old was sentenced to youth custody for a year and four months since he was under 18 when the crime was committed.

Is Sweden doomed to the third-world fate predicted by the United Nations?  Or will the once-proud Swedes–the very people who explored the world, logging conquest after conquest in distant lands, inspring fear and respect in all who crossed their path–rise up and drive the evil amongst them into the sea?  As Bound for Glory notes in the first track from its newest album, Death and Defiance, Stockholm is indeed burning.  Will the true Swedes answer the call?

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