Becoming the Archetype – Children of the Great Extinction


Georgia trio, Becoming the Archetype, seemed destined to become a footnote in the history of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal (NWOAHM) when they announced their indefinite hiatus in 2013. Line-up changes plagued the group from day one, yet they return after nine years with guitarist and singer, Seth Hecox, remaining as the only constant member. Fans of the Devin Townsend-produced Dichotomy LP from 2008 will be delighted to learn that bassist and growling vocalist, Jason Wisdom, is back in the ranks along with original drummer, Brent Duckett. Now slimmed down to a three-piece, the band have almost a decade of musical ideas to harvest, which may explain their progressive approach on album number six.

The rhythm section of this record is exquisite, and the audio engineering is just as impressive. You know from the first tremolo-picked guitar passage and sixteenth-note drum pattern of ‘The Dead World’ that Children of the Great Extinction will be a colossal sound experience. Yet the riffs lack the imagination and bite that their low-tuned guitars promise on the first track. You wonder if this is a groove metal version of Dream Theater, but it will make more sense if you follow its evolution through the narrative of the lyrics. The sci-fi concept revolves around an ancient voyage of humans that colonised a distant planet only to lose contact with earth. Is it set in a distant future ten centuries from now or in an alternative time of the past? Though it may not be clear, the story holds your attention with its dark expeditionary tone seething with exterminatory impulses. ‘The Lost Colony’ takes an atmospheric death metal foundation for its intro but alternates with a shoulder-swaying bass groove to engage you in its muscular exploration of an unknown eco-system. Hecox inserts a scintillating guitar solo among the low-end crunches, while Jason Wisdom exercises his larynx with the savage thirst of a soldier intent on living off the land for subsistence.

As a three-piece, the power and purpose of the music deserves admiration. The Northlane vibe in ‘The Remnant’ soon gives way to a Monuments pastiche, but the breakdown riff is like an early Christmas present for the crew of isolated astronauts that drive the album’s narrative. You cannot underestimate the force of ‘The Calling’, with its tech death rhythms and superb chorus melody harking back to the early Cynic records. Even the metalcore beatdown in the middle-eight pulsates with a subtle complexity. The experimentation is more compelling on repeat listens, but it seldom wanders into incoherence. Listen how the captivating Medieval folk guitar at the beginning of ‘The Awakening’ leads into a Paradise Lost serenade of gothic pianos and ringing fifth chords. It’s also here that you encounter the one reservation about this record – the guitar riffs are blunt and often shapeless, relying too much on their low turning for impact when we need something more jagged and angular in shape. There’s nothing wrong with the lead guitar phrasing. Give ‘The Hollow’ a spin if you want some valiant shredding.

Jason Wisdom’s return to the band for the first outing since 2011’s Celestial Completion is a triumphant one if we assess his strong vocal thrust on this record. The lively guttural roars capture the rage of the album, yet they also work well when introducing the smooth tenor harmonies of songs like ‘The Ruins’. Gojira fans will delight at the way he guides the sixteenth-note crunches of ‘The Curse’ like Joe Duplantier enraged by the sight of a toxic spillage in the Mediterranean Sea.

Life has a habit of getting in the way of Becoming the Architect’s momentum, but maybe the reformed line-up could find some stability. The future might be fertile if they continue on the new path that they set for themselves here.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 26/08/2022

Record Label: Solid State Records

Standout tracks: The Lost Colony, The Calling, The Hollow

Suggested Further Listening: Monuments – Gnosis (2012), Northlane – Obsidian (2022), Neorhythm – Terrastory (2020)