Review Summary: Either your face will melt or your head will explode. Either way, Archspire leaves no survivors.
Every so often you find a band that utterly flips your idea of great music upside down, stomps all over it and shreds it to pieces. Meet Archspire; a technical death metal band from Vancouver, Canada, and their debut album All Shall Align
Next to Blotted Science, these guys' musicianship is unparalleled in the world of metal. It becomes clear in the first whirling moments of Deathless Ringing that Archspire play an extremely fast, extremely complex style of death metal. From the hyperblasts and ridiculously syncopated cymbal work of Spencer Prewett to the psychotic and deafeningly fast vocal work of Oli Peters, every band member present play a notch above the rest on the scene. All Shall Align is like an onion, each listen revealing another layer of technical insanity.
But it takes more than speed and precision to make good music (*cough Brain Drill cough*), and Archspire are well aware of this reality. Upon first listen the album may present itself as unintelligible musical gibberish, but after a number of listens it is soon revealed just how well these guys can write songs. There is heavy use of classical theory and unlike some bands (cough* Necrophagist cough*) the music doesn't progress in a stale and predictable manner; each song holds its own personality and vigor without homogenizing into one big technical wankfest.
It is truly astounding to hear the instrumental proficiency of this band. The guitar work is nothing short of amazing, hosting a 7-string and 8-string guitarist who alternate between lead, rhythm, and intensely fast, precise sweeping. Not only are they incredibly good on their own, but it is clear the two have been playing together for a long period of time as both guitars never sound like they are out of sync; every note placed precisely where it should be.
Beneath the dancing oscillation of the guitars lies the bass work of Jaron Evil. This guy is a true marvel to see on the heavy strings. He is easily just as good as the guitarists when it comes to speed and technicality, utilizing all ten fingers at any given moment. He is clearly audible almost all the time and very frequently uses two hand tapping, sweeps and insanely technical bass fills, keeping this oft forgotten instrument in the foreground of this bands sound.
Oli Peters handles the vocal work. Actually he doesn't, he butchers your synapses with ridiculously fast screaming. There are few hip-hop artists that could ever dream of double-timing lyrics like this guy. Each song, despite clocking in at an average of around 4 1/2 minutes, contain about an essay worth of lyrical content, following a sci-fi themed story of humanity uniting into a higher consciousness by way of extraterrestrial intervention. His tone is frightening even for a seasoned metalhead, mainly because he's just so goddamn fast. Adding to his already hyper vocal work, the use of layering is tastefully pulled off and never overdone.
Spencer Prewett however is the main attraction here. If you thought you knew of excellent drummers in some your favorite bands, just wait until you see this man attack the kit (there's plenty of video evidence out there). Seriously in every sense of the word this guy is a beast. His hyperblasts are faster than Flo Mounier could every dream of, but anyone can blast 350bpm if they practice enough; no, this guy's natural mysticism behind the kit lies in his cymbal work. Even after 20+ listens, trying to follow his right hand's handiwork is a difficult task. It is not very often the cymbals of all things take the lead in metal, but Prewett utilizes all 7+ cymbals to the utmost degree, bouncing through fills and syncopation that equal the guitars in technicality. All while never missing a beat.
Having mastered the art of music, the only variable left to conquer is the production, and Archspire nailed that too. Some would argue the production seems forced or overly crisp, but the fact of the matter is, for music this fast and complex, tight frequency ranges are a must. All the instruments sound crisp and are clearly audible in lieu of the massive amounts notes and tones flying around at any given second.
However amidst all the high praise a number of glaring flaws that mar this album. You see All Shall Align is no perfect piece of handiwork, primarily due to the lack of variety present in the music. Sure the musicianship is very impressive, but the number one go to method for wowing the listener is the sweep, which present on every song, gets damn old damn fast. Furthermore, for the first 28 minutes of this album it is pretty much non-stop insanity save a couple brief, calming passages, and it would have been nice to see the wonderful classically inspired title track/outro to make its eerie personality known a little more frequently in the meat of the album. Fortunately enough though, Archspire's skill and quality control for the most part negate the downfalls.
In lieu of its flaws, this is nonetheless one of my all time favorite albums. It's not accessible by any means, and anyone who already has a distaste for modern tech. death probably won't be overly enamored with the album, but for those who have become accustomed to blisteringly fast music, there lies gold in them sonic hills of All Shall Align. For a debut album to THIS good, its apparent the metal gods have blessed this band.
[ Republished from my metal-archives profile: http://www.metal-archives.com/users/Psypocalypse ]