In the span of a decade, Vancouver’s Archspire have gone from an interesting new face on the scene to one of the premier technical death metal bands in the world. Yet the core formula to Archspire’s sound, now familiar to many a tech death fan, has remained the same throughout: breakneck speed at all costs, and all else is details. But it’s a formula that works, and not least because of the band’s commitment to markedly improve their sound with each successive release. 2014’s The Lucid Collective was a noticeable step up over all aspects of debut All Shall Align (an Origin-like barn burner of an album, although it seems the band has all but disowned it now) while 2017’s excellent Relentless Mutation kicked it up another notch with a refined guitar tone and more dynamic songwriting. Noticeably, however, Relentless Mutation also felt as if it were attempting to address the not-infrequent criticism that the band’s sound emphasized speed to a fault — that it was fast to the point of feeling thin, and without the ‘weight’ otherwise characteristic of the genre.
So let’s get this out of the way first: with Bleed the Future, any concerns about thinness are ancient history. Somehow, Archspire have managed to craft the absolute heaviest album in their discography, with a strongly added emphasis on the low end like never before. Single “Golden Mouth of Ruin” gives a glimpse of this new approach, but is hardly the tip of the iceberg: “Drone Corpse Aviator”, “Abandon the Linear”, and especially “Acrid Canon” are punchy and groovy while still being very much Archspire, with the twin guitar work of Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli now just as quick to launch into a filthy breakdown as it is fast licks and sweep picking sections.
The newfound overall sense of groove that permeates the album is also welcome, and very much woven into each song. It’s quickly apparent much of Bleed the Future is written for crowds to groove to in a live setting — something the band have teased with songs like “Remote Tumour Seeker”, but this time forming the very foundation of much of the music. Any guitar enthusiasts reading this may also appreciate that Lamb and Morelli now both wield eight-string guitars and make full use of their instruments’ extended lower range, going as far as to write most if not all of the songs in double drop tuning for maximum heaviness. It really is as gnarly as it sounds on the page, and brings a new refreshing new dimension to Archspire’s brand of tech death.
Of course, guitar heroics in a thoughtless vacuum can get tiresome — but the songwriting on Bleed the Future goes a step beyond to avoid that issue. The eight songs on the album just feel outright better constructed than on previous works, with complicated sections flowing into one another in ways that incredibly satisfying to behold in their entirety. Worth mentioning too is that Bleed the Future features the heaviest neo-classical influence the band have shown yet, chiefly on “Reverie on the Onyx”, which is the closest Archspire have come to brazenly writing a double concerto-like section in the middle of a tech death song. From the days of Necrophagist, tech death has always benefited from some neo-classical flair, and it’s plainly apparent why that’s the case here. “Drain of Incarnation” also deserves a mention on this front, with a gorgeous contrapuntal clean guitar section opening the song — Spawn of Possession may be gone, but their spirit lives on in myriad ways on Bleed the Future.
For all my pontificating about the guitars in particular, it stands that every instrument on the record is performed to perfection, and Dave Otero’s production brings the final product together brilliantly. Jared Smith’s bass lines thunder and roar; the onslaught from Spencer Prewett’s drumkit drills into the listener’s skull just right; and Oli Rae Aleron’s mile-a-minute narration of an alien parasite’s quest to take over the world ties it all together. The best is saved for last though. Closing track “A.U.M.”, the shortest song on the album, hits like an out-of-control Mack truck racing down the Autobahn, setting a new benchmark for the fastest Archspire song along the way (but not before an excellent Easter egg that I won’t spoil here kicks it off). This is no seven-minute tech death opus like the previous album’s masterful closer “A Dark Horizontal” — “A.U.M.” is a fucking bludgeoning, a cinderblock-to-the-head burst of crushing death metal catharsis unlike anything we’ve seen from the band before. It’s a perfect sendoff to what is easily the heaviest Archspire album yet and pulls absolutely no punches along the way.
2021 has been a stacked year for tech death to an extent not seen in years, with releases from bands like Ophidian I, First Fragment, Inferi, and so many more either already released or on the horizon — and how fortunate are we to bear witness to it all. In terms of sheer heaviness, however, Archspire’s fourth outing is going to be incredibly difficult to dethrone at the top. The band’s commitment to outdoing each previous release has showed no sign of letting up steam, law of averages be damned, and rest assured that trend continues unabated here if in a slightly newer direction for the band. Long-time blog readers should be well familiar with the principle that we are in the Golden Age of Metal; if albums like Bleed the Future don’t make that abundantly clear, I’m not sure what will.
Archspire’s Bleed the Future releases October 29th via Season of Mist and can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp above.