Review Summary: Becoming the Archetype's debut album is an impressive mixture of brutality, melody, and instrumental variation. Also, they're Christian, but Jeremy Camp this ain't.
During the nineties, it was almost impossible to participate in a discussion of Christian metal without mentioning Living Sacrifice
, then-juggernauts of that genre. The band was proof that not all Christian musicians were acoustic singer-songwriters limited to recording soft, reverent albums – Living Sacrifice was brutal
, combining thrash and death metal influences with an unashamed declaration of Christian faith, albeit contained within near-unintelligible screams and growls. They largely carried the torch for Christian metalheads for an entire decade, before breaking up in 2003.
But this is not a Living Sacrifice review. The reason for the above exposé is, of course, that the band actually under discussion, Becoming the Archetype
, bears more than a few resemblances to those giants of the past. Their debut LP, Terminate Damnation
is an exercise in calculated, technical aggression, tempered with the occasional clean breakdown and plenty of melodic influences. The band is also unashamedly Christian, working religious themes and ideas into their lyrics.
Luckily for those who don’t like such things, the vocals on this album allow you to ignore the religious side of the band; if you aren’t listening carefully they’re usually unintelligible. Jason Wisdom (who also plays bass) pushes out growls halfway between metalcore and death metal, and can alternate between anthemic shouts (The Epigone
) and low, downright demonic-sounding rumbles (Ex Nihilo
). These vocals are accompanied by an obviously talented instrumental section, which moves with ease from technical, grind-inspired chugfests to epic, inspiring choruses to clean, beautifully executed breakdowns, all in the one song.
The production on this album is excellent. The twin, sometimes-triple guitar attack is brought out with clarity and brutality, but does not overpower the bass, which is audible throughout most songs and even provides a couple of interesting solo licks here and there. Vocals are mixed far enough back to draw attention to the technical skills of the rest of the band, but are still prominent enough to assault you with deathly effectiveness. Everything slots nicely into place.
Becoming the Archetype
reveal themselves as capable of maintaining a surprising diversity on this album, providing variety in and between songs, ensuring that the listener remains interested throughout the 55-minute playing time. The band mixes technicality with a keen sense of melody throughout the album, but doesn’t fall into the metalcore trap of ‘heavy verse, soft chorus’. In fact, there is very little on this album that resembles a traditional song structure, a feature accentuated by the relatively sparse appearances of vocals on the album. Terminate Damnation
has heavy instrumental influences, and resembles the later work of Isis in the way that the music is more often the focus of attention than the vocals. If that music was just standard metal fare for 11 tracks, this album would fail. But the instrumentation is wonderfully varied here; acoustic guitar sections are often incorporated, such as in Into Oblivion
, where a fragile acoustic solo melody is played, then immediately reprised with overdriven guitars. The same song contains a harpsichord-inspired clean section, while the ‘Lament’ section of the three-part Elegy
is a piano solo, and the opener March of the Dead
is largely organ-based.
But enough mindless fan-worship. This album is not perfect for a few reasons. Occasionally the band concentrates on technicality at the expense of melody or even musicality; an example is the beginning of Into Oblivion
, where the admittedly awesome intro riff morphs into an offtime, fast and dissonant passage that just feels out of place. Also, the instrumental sections can drag, especially in the latter two parts of Elegy
. Overall, though, Becoming the Archetype
hits the mark far more often than they miss it, providing a varied and interesting listen for the duration of the album.
Here’s a quick overview of a selection of tracks:
March of the Dead
: Short instrumental, largely organ based. An interesting, perhaps strange, first track, although it does show off the melodic strength of the rest of the CD. 4/5
: One of the strongest tracks on the album, barring the aforementioned problem. Basically a condensed version of the whole album, with viciously heavy riffs, melodic breakdowns, a blistering solo, and a general catchiness that makes the song hard not to like. 4.5/5
: This is a solo classical guitar piece. While it’s not in the same class as the compositions of the classical guitar masters of Europe, it is very beautiful, and uses some interesting sounds; a section entirely made up of artificial harmonics is particularly breathtaking. In places the piece can sound a bit messy, but it’s well worth listening to if you like that sort of thing, which I do. 4.5/5
: My personal favourite song off the album. It’s heavy, melodic, and catchy, with some great harmonies in the verse and chorus, as well as a bluesy guitar solo that initially seems out of place but shapes up to be one of the best moments on the disc. It’s also one of the most overtly religious songs on the album, with Wisdom shouting ‘Your name is Glory’ as well as ‘There is no opposition…nothing can stand in your way!’ Great use of gang vocals and a heavy, technical breakdown from 2:55. 5/5
: A clean instrumental. It’s short, but good, with good use of both electric and acoustic guitar sounds. An easy listen that brings down the tension before the album’s epic closing track. 4/5
Any of the above would be good choices if you were looking to check out this band; also The Trivial Paroxysm
, or Elegy
if you were interested in listening to the more progressive side of the band.
So, is Becoming the Archetype
the next Living Sacrifice? Well, with just one album out, it’s hard to tell. Suffice to say that these guys have definite potential to be very, very good. Definitely get this if you want more metal in your Christian music, or if you just like metal in general. Do it now.