The third album in any bands career can be tricky. it is usually seen as the pivotal release to see if a band can evolve their sound or phone it in by reworking material mastered from their first two. With the well received The Lucid Collective, one wouldn’t blame Archspire for going the route so many have and play it safe. Quite the contrary, the Vancouver crew have achieved something few bands in the tech death scene have been able to accomplish, namely expand their melodic foundation at the same time as doubling down on technicality and retain integrity. While these two elements have of course been featured exclusively in their previous work, Relentless Mutation brings a fresh perspective to their writing and progressing upon it tenfold.
The most notable improvement, which cannot be understated, is the guitar work of axemen Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli. On previous efforts, majority of the riffing, while technically impressive and played with conviction kinda lacked any real impact. A lot of the parts kind of felt like sped up technical exercises and not really song-like. While any tech death band worth their salt will have the obligatory masturbatory shredding aspects, Relentless Mutation offers a balance to this chaos. The contrapuntal nature to the guitar and bass parts adds a serious depth to the brutality. The progression of the guitar writing from the previous album is so much more advanced its somewhat jarring.
From the neck break pace of opener “Involuntary Doppleganger” with its almost neo-classical main theme that lowers down to the 8th string bowels of the guitar, featuring a melodic solo, and finally leading way to a somewhat jazzy clean guitar part really showcases whats in store for the listener this time around. “Human Murmuration” starts with a Muse like arpeggiation leading to a grooving guitar drum dialogue, which is unlike anything found on TLC. “Remote Tumor Seeker” doubles down on the signature machine gun-esque hyper blasting courtesy of Spencer Pruitt. And while a song like this may have previously been filled with guitar exercise riffs, the faster “tech” parts found here almost sound like Johan Sebastian Bach on a cocaine fueled bender: unrelenting 16th notes, with cascading notes playing counterpoint at its most extreme. All of this leading up to the grooviest and catchiest outro on the record.
The production is also of notable improvement. The guitars are so much more full sounding across the sonic spectrum, for both highs and lows. The bass sits just under them, offering a nice low end foundation for the drums to further fill out. The snare drum is prominent in its auditability, but thankfully it sounds like a “real” snare offering a satisfying attack during the insane barrage of blasts found throughout. The vocals are just above all of this, but never overwhelming. This is no small feat considering the vocals from Oliver Rae Aleron, which are spit out & quasi-rapped with the same intensity and vigor as the other instrumentation.
Relentless Mutation while still holding true to their self-described “Stay Tech” aesthetic in which Archspire revels, heightened melodicism and songwriting not only stand out from the pack, but all the while decimating the competition. Opposed to the masturbatory endless shredding and noodling found on the previous releases, the deep counter point and song craft offered here is something to behold. If tech death is your game, Archspire is the name you need to check out, and quick. Stay Tech indeed.