To date, Archspire‘s The Lucid Collective remains one of my favourite tech-death albums. The technical prowess of each of the individual members, along with the intense songwriting on the album left me subconsciously going back for more every time there’s a need to release some pent-up frustration (Seven Crowns and the Oblivion Chain, anyone?).
The band this year drops their third full-length album, Relentless Mutation. Prior to the release of the album, I was already excited with the first previews, and things were already sounding to be even heavier, faster, more technical, and more intense than The Lucid Collective. The band is in top form over here, and just as naysayers were wondering if it were possible to go even faster than The Lucid Collective, Archspire quickly proves them wrong.
The entire instrumental segment is clean and precise as hell, but the one who really steals the show on Relentless Mutation is vocalist Oli and how he easily keeps up with the speed of the band. The standout track that perfectly showcases Oli’s prowess is on Calamus Will Animate, where the band samples Tech N9ne‘s Stamina, at the same time hinting towards the influence that the rap genre has on Oli’s vocal styling and techniques.
Rather than a complete brainless speedfest, like on their previous material, Archspire incorporates quieter interludes on the album. The opening of title track Relentless Mutation, or the songs like The Mimic Well often have clean moments, posing a stark contrast to the organised chaos that they have created, while giving listeners a much-desired break before another round of aural assault.
As a test of how intense Relentless Mutation is, going back from closing track A Dark Horizontal to Lucid Collective Somnambulation (opening track of The Lucid Collective) left the latter track feeling slightly sluggish. And to think that The Lucid Collective was already one of the heaviest record that I love, Archspire indeed brought things to a new high (or rather, crushing low) with Relentless Mutation.
Production, as per most releases of the genre, is top-notch. Like all good music, Relentless Mutation is best enjoyed with a decent pair of cans. On faster cans like my closed-back Fostex T40RP MK3, the aggression hits the listener hard, though the rather revealing nature of the cans does make the album feel somewhat tiring after repeated listens. On the other hand, on the warmer and darker Audeze LCD-2, Relentless Mutation becomes a crushing, if somewhat suffocating listen, albeit in a good way for the genre. Bass on tracks like A Dark Horizontal also leaves one feeling enveloped by a wall of sound. Furthermore, the open nature of the cans makes quieter moments like on the opening of the title track, or A Dark Horizontal feel more immersive.
With their previous album, Archspire had already amassed a legion of loyal fans, evident from the slew of “Stay Tech” tattoos that the band often showcases on their Facebook page, and Relentless Mutation is the perfect specimen of the insanity of the band.
Favourite tracks: Relentless Mutation, Calamus will Animate, A Dark Horizontal