Album Title: Bleed The Future
Label: Season Of Mist
Date of Release: 29 October 2021
Each and every time I decide to listen to an album that has brutality, technicality, and intensity at its heart, I entertain the same internal monologue. ‘It’s impressive’, I say to myself, before moving on to ‘wow, that’s very clever’. But then the monologue moves into the territory of ‘do I like it? I mean, I am impressed, but do I like it?’ and by liking it, I of course mean, ‘would I listen to this if it wasn’t for the fact that I am reviewing it?’ Sometimes, I have to conclude that I don’t like the music in that manner. I admire it for all its technical prowess, but I know that I’ll not listen to it again once I’ve listened to it for review purposes.
This is exactly the internal monologue that surfaced when I first took the plunge to check out Archspire, courtesy of ‘Bleed The Future’, the fourth album from the talented Canadian quintet. And when I say talented, I’m not kidding. In fact, to refer to Archspire as talented is a gross understatement. Despite forming way back in 2009, this is my first exposure to this band, and I’ll happily admit that my jaw instantly hit the floor. I’m not sufficiently musically literate to have the faintest idea about the tempos, rhythms and breathtaking techniques deployed on this album, but I do recognise incredible talent when I hear it. And that’s what Messrs Oli Aleron (vocals), Dean Lamb (guitars), Tobi Morelli (guitars), Jared Smith (bass), and Spencer Prewett possess in absolute spades. The speed, the intensity, the precision, the power; it’s all there on ‘Bleed The Future’, a 31 minute whirlwind of some of the fastest most intense technical death metal that you’ll ever hear.
But I refer back to the question at the very core of that internal monologue of mine: ‘do I like the music here?’
The fact that I have listened to this album upwards of a dozen times before even beginning to think about penning this review, should give you a fair indication. Yes, I like Archspire’s music within the eight tracks on ‘Bleed The Future’. I like it very much indeed. And for those of you who have read my reviews over a more prolonged period of time, will have an inkling why. You’ll know that The Man Of Much Metal likes melody, groove, and memorability to his music. Yes, technical prowess can be impressive, but I tend to need more than that if an album is to remain on my playlist beyond the review period. I need something to pull me back for repeated listens, otherwise I lose interest too quickly. And that’s where Archspire excel. This kind of music will never feature the kind of gratuitous hooks witnessed within some power metal, melodic hard rock, or even some classic prog. But Archspire have managed to inject their insane barrage of ferocity with just enough melody and subtlety to keep me fully invested time and time again. What’s more, this record just gets better and better the more I listen to it.
The sheer speed and intensity that hits you square between the eyes courtesy of opener ‘Drone Corpse Aviator’ beggars belief – it shouldn’t be possible for musicians to be able to play this fast, let alone with such control and style. The drumming from Spencer Prewett approaches warp speed, but is matched by all of the musicians who simply take the barrage as an invitation to play as fast as they can. The riffs courtesy of Tobi Morelli and Dean Lamb spiral, swirl, and eddy but never threaten to lose control, whilst the bass of Jared Smith dances with a playful zeal that seems completely unphased by the pace, as evidenced around the 56 second mark. Crucially, the band understand that dynamics and melody have their place, so there are moments of stark, almost disorientating calm and beauty that punctuate the all-out attack elsewhere. Vocalist Oli Aleron has a deep, commanding bark that fits perfectly, but he stays silent during the melodious breaks to allow them to take full effect. What I didn’t expect however, were the catchy melodies woven into some of the faster, heavier riffs towards the end of the whirlwind track, not to mention the slower, molten, final down-tuned eight-string guitar notes at the death.
Still reeling from the opening salvo, ‘Golden Mouth Of Ruin’ follows, allowing no respite. The technique, not that I honestly know what’s going on, is astounding, with the bass once again coming to the fore, before yielding to eloquent guitar lead solos and breaks. The way in which the musicians can stop the assault stone dead before veering in another entirely different direction is nothing short of miraculous, but it is undertaken with ease and relish by the band.
How such speed and technicality can sound so damn catchy, as evidenced by ‘Abandon The Linear’, is beyond my comprehension. Therefore, instead of wonder how it’s possible, I end up sitting back and enjoying the fruits of Archspire’s considerable labours. And I stress the word ‘enjoy’ because I genuinely like the music here; the sense of atmosphere, the subtle melody, and the instrumental interplay is an utter joy. In fact, that’s a great descriptor for ‘Bleed The Future’, because there is a palpable sense of joy that emanates from the compositions, as if each of the musicians is having a blast, much like a toddler on Christmas morning. It’s infectious and proves that even the most extreme of music can have a lighter edge to it when executed correctly.
Possibly the most accessible of all the tracks on the record is the title track, thanks to a melody at its heart that is never lost, however much the band push in terms of technicality and pummelling intensity. It’s by far and away the fastest four minutes on the album.
Mind you, the gentle, gorgeous intro to ‘Drain Of Incarnation’ is another highlight of many to be heard, lulling you into a false sense of security for a moment. The remainder of the track is best described as a masterclass of guitar technique, ably assisted by yet more warp-speed drumming that threatens to defy the laws of physics. But crucially, the track still resembles a song, rather than a technical workout, with melodies gradually emerging from within the tornado.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea by now. I have heard some pretty impressive musicianship from many bands over the years, but I cannot remember a time when I’ve been quite this impressed by the sheer ability of a band. The fact that Archspire can then deliver such a punishing and extreme listening experience without sacrificing musicality is a feat that few of us can even comprehend, let alone dream of executing. I’d have had to start playing an instrument in the womb to get anywhere near the ability of these guys. And even then, it would probably have been a futile endeavour; I know when I’m beaten. But instead of bemoaning my shortcomings, I have decided to succumb to the extreme technical death metal charms of Archspire, live vicariously through their immense ability, and simply enjoy the music that they have produced. For ‘Bleed The Future’ is a special record, proving once and for all that technical extreme music doesn’t have to be a monotonous, dour, and indecipherable mess of noise; it can be fleet of foot, fun, and inspired too. Oh and for sheer technical ability, feel free to add another eight per cent to the score.
The Score of Much Metal: 92%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: