Archspire are one of those rare breeds of bands that almost no one is passive about: you’re either firmly on one side of the fence or the other. For some, the boisterous and unabashed desire to be the fastest and most technical is exactly what the genre of tech-death needs; for others, it’s showoffmanship of the highest order, wankery for its own sake. Fortunately for both sides, Bleed the Future seems to address the fixes that allow both parties to enjoy this album in equal measure, incorporating both their most memorable and catchy songwriting as well as their fastest and more brutal.
For the record, if you haven’t caught any of the times I’ve hooted and hollered about Archspire on the Audio Thing, I fucking love Archspire. I think all you really need to know about the band comes from the double whammy of their video for “Drone Corpse Aviator,” which in and of itself is an amazing homage to classic horror and sci-fi movies as well as a testament to both how much and how little the band take themselves seriously, and the video they made of their moms reacting to said video (which, spoiler alert, heavily features all of their heads blowing up or melting). I try my hardest not to buy into the cult of personality, but Archspire make it so damn easy to appreciate their schtick when they are so goofy and fun-loving about it. These are not technical musicians who put on airs about being better than everyone else; they are just fellas who love making music that happens to be fast, brutal and technically outrageous. So how, then, do you take it to the next level? Well, according to guitarist Dean Lamb, you need to double down on what works. “We had the viewpoint of ‘What do crowds like? What parts should we write more of? What parts do people give us good feedback on?’ We wanted to expand and write those parts more consistently; there are more hooks and when we do have hooks, we wanted to repeat those parts so people will know that this is the catchy part of the song,” says Lamb. Which is not to say that they don’t deliver on the heaviness. Bleed the Future also happens to contain the fastest song they have ever recorded, one that breaks 400 BPM, and the band fully embraces the 8-string drop E tuning they’ve hinted at before. So yeah, it’s a pretty heavy album as well, but it’s absolutely accessible and it sticks with you beyond the last note ringing out.
“Drone Corpse Aviator” into “Golden Mouth of Ruin” might be the sickest one-two combo of opening tracks that I have heard in an album in a long time. Both of the tracks are an instrumental workout, but the shining star of the first moments of the album has to be shotgun vocalist Oli Aleron, Mr. Good Morning Handsome himself (new episodes when pls). It is unbelievably refreshing to hear his take on death metal vocals; especially in extreme music, the tendency is to muddy the delivery and go for unintelligible growls, but Aleron’s hip-hop influences shine through with some of the sickest flow in any genre of music and the delivery is always crystal clear (as clear as one can be while still growling). Of course, that says nothing of the twin guitar attack of Lamb and Tobi Morelli, whose interplay of dumb guy riffs and blistering lead work makes these songs as memorable as they are, and the mind-bending work of bassist Jared Smith, who has a much larger part to play on this album than any other Archspire record. I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t mention the rock that holds it all together, drummer Spencer Prewett, whose chops are felt nowhere more than the aforementioned 400 BPM sprint, album closer “AUM.” The way all five members work in tandem to turn what has the very real potential to be absolute chaos into something both supremely awesome and also catchy as all get-out is what makes this band so special. There is something very conventional about the way the lean on hooky melodies and memorable choruses despite the fact that they sweep pick diminished arpeggios over tapped basslines and blast beats.
If you’ve been wondering what all the hype is about, there is no better place to get into Archspire than Bleed the Future. It doubles down on everything that makes them unique, while focusing those qualities into songs that stand on their own merits, not just because of how difficult they are to play. This has always been the quality that makes Archspire a cut above the rest, but Bleed the Future sees the band at their peak, at least for now. There are always faster tempos, more intense runs, heavier riffs and more words to spit, but the good news is that it will always be in service of a good song. I guess there’s really only one thing left to say: stay tech out there.