Archspire – Bleed the Future Review

It brings me no pleasure to inform you that the new Archspire record kind of sucks.

Well, actually, it brings me a great deal of pleasure, because that is an outrageous lie, and the thought of you entertaining it for even a fraction of a second is riotous. Bleed the Future is not just good; it is, uncannily, exactly as good as I expected. And if you’ve heard Relentless Mutation, the band’s now-classic 2017 record, you’re expecting the same things form Bleed the Future that I was. You know it’s going to be catchy; you know it’s going to be dense; but most of all you know that it’s going to be absurdly, criminally, impossibly fast.

“Drone Corpse Aviator” immediately sets the pace with a tempo as rapid as its title is impossible to parse. A pilot who flies disassembled drones? A corpse at the controls of a drone? I couldn’t tell you, but whomever or whatever it is, it’s not staying in one place very long. Arriving with a spiraling lead and torrential drums, “Drone Corpse Aviator” opens Bleed the Future with everything Relentless Mutation used to revolutionize tech death. The breakneck pace, dexterous fretwork, and stop-on-a-dime coordination are what any band in the genre aspires to, but beyond the bare dominance are the particular details that make Archspire Archspire. Oli Peters’ percussive growls function almost as an extension of Spencer Prewett’s precise yet volatile drumming. Tobi Morelli, Dean Lamb, and bassist Jared Smith cruise across this jagged rhythmic matrix as if it were nothing but pause in its gaps to for delicate melodic interludes. As soon as the trio dance through one lull, they ricochet out again in a set of kaleidoscopic leads before closing the song with a slam-style reprisal of is main chromatic theme.

It gets better from there. Somehow, Bleed the Future manages to subtly ratchet intensity from “The Golden Mouth of Ruin” on. In the second track, a show-stopping transition steps down the pace from sixteenth notes to triplet eighths to eighths to triplet quarters in the five seconds before the groove hits. Not long after, “Bleed the Future” introduces another incredible rhythmic device, a synchronized two-hit hook that the band hammer home on downbeats of alternate eight- and seven-beat phrases. It’s a commanding beginning that Archspire go on to completely outdo with the record’s most addictive melody, so strong that the string players practice it in near-unison before it overwhelms them. The following “Drain of Incarnation” offers breathing room for only a moment, as its three-part contrapuntal piece quickly evolves into a hyperventilating tremolo riff. Across all of these addictive rhythms, the string players cascade intricate melodic leads and riffs that regularly switch between sweep-picking, tapping, pinch harmonics, and a half-dozen other demanding techniques. Every one of Bleed the Future’s eight songs abounds with such technical feats, and Archspire’s care in their arrangement ensures that you remember every note.

What’s not to like? Very little. The record is quite loud, and there are times when Dave Otero’s mix and master feel cramped, like an octopus that’s squeezed itself into a glass jar. From the outside, it’s gleaming, but when different parts are pressed to the surface all over, it can be difficult to tell what you’re looking at, a problem exacerbated when the eight-string guitar, six-string bass, and kick drum fight for low-end space. While this mix reinforces the record’s increased intensity, it’s simply not necessary, and I’d gratefully exchange it for the clarity of Relentless Mutation. But crucially, it doesn’t make the record any less fun to listen to, evidenced by the fact that I’ve probably listened to it thirty or forty times. Each time Prewett’s bell hit ushers in the career-topping speed of “A.U.M.”1 is just as stunning as the first.

Technical death metal is always a bit of a pissing contest, and for the last four years nobody has micturated something more magnificent than Relentless Mutation. The challenge Archspire faced with Bleed the Future was only to surpass their own high water mark, and, impossibly, they have. Bleed the Future makes Relentless Mutation seem just a tad lethargic, just a shade duller. And after listening to the record dozens of times over the past month, I keep coming back to it not to make notes or to consider it critically again, but just to witness it, finding something new to love every time. Archspire have outdone themselves, and it’s an absolute joy to hear.


Rating: 4.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: archspire.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/archspire
Releases Worldwide: October 29th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. The band are likely counting this just a few strokes faster than 400bpm.
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