Review Summary: Inquisitive escapades into the claustrophobia of space.
The great unknown and predictions about space-time travel have enthralled and intrigued our excitable brains since the dawn of man. It is so easy to become utterly encapsulated in the vastness of everything we cannot comprehend, and the big blue sky, for all of its desolation, houses a considerable amount more questions than answers. Archivist's post-fueled escapade in their 2015 self-titled release was surprisingly intentional in contrast with the lengthy, sprawling figure it bore. It was one young band's attempt at a galactic narrative. Powered by a strong youthful vigour, the album ended up being a touch too ambitious for Archivist's songwriting abilities. No one could ever narrate the universe in an hour, but 60 minutes of content, albeit fantastic content, proved to be quite the excessive journey. While the band has most definitely matured as a group in the two years since, it was quite a shock to see that Construct
was an even longer offering. A stricter lyrical narrative had me intrigued, but as with the debut, a serious lack of editing would prove that the skies are indeed the limit.
It is frustrating seeing a band make the same mistakes twice in a row, and especially the sort of mistakes that can paint a rather uppity image for new artists. "Lamenting Configuration" opens up the album perfectly: an immersing build explodes into the band's staggering sound. The rough mix of shoegaze, post metal, black metal, and hardcore elements is remarkably addictive, with galloping drums and heroic leads acting as a fitting vessel for a time-hopping adventure. The band has a keen eye for evolving progressions and moreish melodies that sink into your head without permission as blast beats and aggressive riffing plough on below. Yet, for as diverse and somewhat unique this sound might be, the band ends up shooting itself in the foot when looking at the big picture. There is just too much Construct
for its own good. A large percentage of the album is crescendos and atmosphere induction. A potentially larger percentage of Construct
is repetition. My initial doubts with the album length were solidified in the second track, "Birth Of Ire", which like the opening track, insisted on beginning with a minute of reverb-drenched background noise. When also considering the fact that the album contains interval tracks, atmospheric fat becomes a bit of a spanner in the works.
Telling a story such as this through music requires a good deal of worldbuilding for there to be any sort of deep emotional payoff. Every song takes place in a different year, some being a few years ago, some being a few hundred years in the future, some being a few thousand. The narrative dips its toes in religion, artificial intelligence, conflict, discovery, and general humanity. This is a major problem because every song taking place in a different era and touching on different subjects means every song needs its own auditory accompaniment that can simultaneously work within an album and work as an individual storyline within a larger narrative. In short, this doesn't end up doing any favors for the band. Repetition and aura play key roles in separating each track from each other, almost as a persistent tap on the shoulder from the band telling you "this is track three! We are no longer in track two!". Archivist's sound is identifiable enough that there is no denying you are still stuck in Construct
's universe, but the end result is a collection of ideas rather than a cohesive whole. Almost 70 minutes of ideas is just too damn much. This became especially evident towards the second half of the album where the tone shifts to accommodate darker themes. Credit to where it is due; the album's shift from morbid curiosity to plain morbidity is so effortless that I was unaware it had happened until I ventured back into the first half on repeated listens. This doesn't change the fact that Construct
spends so much time trying to convince you that its ideas are worthwhile that you begin to wonder whether or not the band needs to be acknowledged. Pumping out a release of this length just two years clear of your debut is a risky endeavor and the scuffs around the edges are alarmingly evident.
There isn't a single song on Construct
that I dislike, however. The band proved with their debut that they could write compelling music, and that is just as (if not more) evident here. The second half dives deeper and deeper into black metal territory, with the closing track lacking any sense of hope seen during the album's earlier offerings. I stand by this album sounding like a collection more so than a single mechanism, but it is a pretty damn solid collection if you aren't planning on taking it all in on one listen. Every band member does their part well. The lead and rhythm guitars can hardly be described as such, as the band persistently swaps out roles on the fly to create seamless transitions between lead melodies. It is a subtle and clever approach to melody construction that works well. An adequately audible (if not incredibly modest) bass guitar does its best to remain unnoticed and succeeds with flying colors which is a shame because there were plenty of moments where it would have been fitting for the bass to show itself in a creative way. Suiting the sporadic nature of the story and warping sound of Construct
, the drum and vocal performances ebb and flow, working the hardest to indicate narrative turns. The clean singing, while unoffensive, certainly isn't a strong point, but it doesn't crop up enough to hurt the record. This is a group geared for success on paper, so it is a terrible shame that their most glaring fault is so detrimental.
is way too long. It is essential for Archivist to focus more on cutting out outliers and extraneous fluff should they wish to fully realize their potential. I say this only with the best intentions because there is so much to love about this album. It just isn't captivating or progressive enough to even remotely warrant such an extreme runtime. Reduce Construct
by twenty minutes, cut the tracklist down, focus on one or two themes, and don't convolute the narrative. On my second listen of this album, I started laughing during the bizarre thumping segment about four minutes into "Scorched Earth Policy" because it occurred to me that the band has a very small grasp on what they are doing right and what needs to be cut. It is a blaring example of working in limited time-frames and it isn't good enough. Archivist have presented a painfully frustrating album in 2017. It isn't due to poor musicianship, nor is it due to poor production. It is frustrating because it doesn't know when enough is enough. Too much happens. There is a brilliant record hidden beneath the layers of excess, and I am left exhausted at the thought that space could be so claustrophobic.