Technical death metal heavyweights, Archspire, are one of the genre’s shining lights in a scene that values masturbation over matter. Other than Obscura, nobody is doing more to explore the impossible virtuoso bludgeoning of brutal death metal (BDM) than these Canadians, which makes album number four a critical one in their career.
Before we start, this reviewer should disclose that he’s a subscriber to the YouTube channel of Archspire guitarist, Dean Lamb, and enjoys watching his hilarious Four Levels of Death Metal videos with everyone from Devin Townsend, Whitechapel and Fallujah appearing on the show. This is important because it increases expectations, and Archspire do not disappoint when it comes to an imaginative colour palette for their unique brand of extreme metal. One thing they remember is that the insane brutality of death metal should never be compromised. ‘Drone Corpse Aviator’ will jolt your collar bone like a garrote wire as the guitarists shred through a million notes and sweep-pick their scales over the blast beats. This would be a distraction if the song was not so heavy and the vocals so hostile in their low semitone range. The colossal downward chug riff at the beginning of ‘Golden Mouth of Ruin’ is a welcome reminder that Archspire write songs for the moshpit as well as the musical mathematicians. Close your eyes and press that imaginary fast-forward button – this could be a Philip Glass composition with epic scale rhythms and a circular bass guitar buzzing around your head like a cryptic message from the other side of the galaxy.
Most of today’s technical bands abandon the mixolydian shredding in favour of dissonant chords and jazz fusion guitar. Archspire care nothing for this approach, which makes Bleed the Future a much easier listen than their contemporaries. Perhaps ‘Drain of Incarnation’ encapsulates this when you realise that the main source of enjoyment comes from the promise of melody rather than the negation of it. They also have a sense of humour by including in the song, ‘A.U.M.’, a YouTube rant from a critic deploring the lack of danger and attitude in their music. The preposterous grind of down-tuned guitars and jet engine drums in this track leave you in no doubt that Archspire value the crunch of their riffs as much as the modal majesty of their guitar textures. This is what a Dying Fetus/Strapping Young Lad hybrid would sound like in an alternative world of xenomorphs and predator aliens fighting it out for supremacy on a human cargo flight.
As with most BDM/tech death albums, the main reservations are the perfections in the music. Everything is so clean and vibrant in the mix, and the drums are too synthetic in their acceleration. Let’s be clear: this will be impossible to replicate live. That criticism from the YouTuber at the beginning of ‘A.U.M’ also contains a grain of truth – it’s hard to impress a seasoned death metal fan with the sparkle of virtuoso shredding when you do it for an entire album. Likewise, Oliver Rae Aleron’s trademark technique of rapid-fire lyrics is more exhausting than enthralling and way too monotone.
Nonetheless, every genre needs its leaders, and Archspire are not ready to relinquish their title after this record. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but few do this style of music better.
Release Date: 29/10/2021
Record Label: Season of Mist
Standout tracks: Drone Corpse Aviator, Golden Mouth of Ruin, A.U.M.
Suggested Further Listening: Deeds of Flesh – Nucleus (2020), Necrophagist – Epitaph (2004), Ophidian I – Desolate (2021)