Review Summary: The most focused and honest interpretation of SUFTA's sound yet: nothing more, and nothing less.
Technical music is often immediately accused of being "soulless", on the basis that the flurries of notes flying by leave no room for emotional moments or crescendos. This might hold true for bands like Brain Drill, who place no emphasis on songwriting and instead attempt to beat the listener into submission with raw fury. But Pittsburgh's Save Us From The Archon have consistently proved this idea wrong - their signature brand of breakneck paced, blink-and-you'll-miss-it melodic mathcore is as dense as it is dynamic, and has carried them through one full length and last year's EP "Some Things We Carry, Always", which clocked in at a whopping twelve minutes. Their new LP "Thereafter" might be short on new ideas for the band, but is big on what makes them appealing to begin with - flashy melodies and absurdly skilled instrumentation.
"You Know Everything Ends, And Everyone Leaves" is a good place to start dissecting; the track's ambient lead up and stop-start noodling is found essentially everywhere else on the album, but is rarely as immediate and head-bobbing. This isn't a knock on the record, but is instead a testament to how obtuse it can be. Multiple listens are a necessity before you start to latch on to any of the hooks, even if you're already very familiar with the band's music, but once you've peeled back the layers the individual tracks start becoming more appealing: "Swallowed By Waves..." does more with less and gives the album some space to breathe, "Stays Caught Under Tides" is euphorically melodic and almost relaxing, and "Informed of the Reality" goes semi-subtly from being the band's fastest song to date to a surreal, calming closer. The album is divided into two parts with different musical themes, with the first part being more thought-out and restrained in comparison to the second, which is more of an assault of all out speed, but the difference in sound is so subtle that without knowing to look for it you could be forgiven for missing it entirely.
Pacing is a huge issue for bands like Save Us From The Archon. Because of their constant speed and intensity, crafting a full length that will keep someone's attention for the entirety of its duration is a challenge. The band has mostly circumvented this issue by using ambient interludes placed throughout the album. This is a good way to relieve some of the fatigue, and the interludes are pleasant to listen to and well placed, but on the first half of the album they go on far too long, often comprising more than a third of the track lengths. Given that the tracks are short to begin with it's not as annoying as it could have been, and it's admittedly hard to pinpoint the sweet spot for the lengths of interludes like these, but it breaks a little bit of the flow to be pumped up from the previous track only to have to listen to a minute of white noise before moving on. The album's length itself, however, is perfect: Thereafter sits at a brisk thirty minutes, and feels whole and complete.
Save Us From The Archon is an uncompromising band. They won't hold your hand with easy-to-find hooks or force their sound into an avenue they're not comfortable exploring for pure diversity's sake. Instead, Thereafter is the most focused and honest interpretation of their sound thus far. Nothing more, and nothing less.