Becoming the Archetype – Children of the Great Extinction Review

Like my colleague Dear Hollow, I cut my metal teeth (and nails) on heavy Christian music, and Becoming the Archetype is, without a doubt, the greatest extreme metal band of the faithful persuasion. We don’t normally receive promos from Solid State Records, but when BtA shocked their fans in June by announcing a surprise album after a ten-year hiatus, I knew I’d do terrible things to get my hands on the promo. Fortunately, all I had to do was email the band, who got me in touch with the label and its PR firm, and here we are. Phew! I quickly enlisted Hollow’s help, thinking that such a momentous occasion demanded a two-pronged attack. Now feast your eyes upon two different takes on Becoming the Archetype’s sixth full-length record, Children of the Great Extinction.

– Holdeneye


Holdeneye

I’ve been fantasizing about this day since I first became a reviewer here at Angry Metal Guy. Becoming the Archetype represents the genesis of my metal journey. They were my first metal show, and their logo was plastered across the front of my first metal shirt. As far as I can recall, they’re the first band that I started following before the debut even came out. That debut, 2005’s Terminate Damnation, was the first extreme metal album that I ever heard, and it remains one of my desert-island records to this very day. The faith of my youth has gone through a violent transformation over the years, and while I’ve lost my taste for a lot of Christian music, Becoming the Archetype’s has weathered the storm, staying by my side the entire time. And this is in large part thanks to the fact that I could feel the band’s faith evolving right alongside their progressive sound with each and every release.

The metalcore-meets-Opeth-meets-Florida death metal (complete with Dan Seagrave art) sound of Terminate Damnation gave way to 2007’s The Physics of Fire, a more clinical, thrashy affair. Just one year later brought what many consider to be the band’s crowning achievement: the enormously groovy and eclectic Devin Townsend-mixed Dichotomy. BtA’s experimentation reached its height on the bizarre, but powerfully melodic Celestial Completion in 2011, and then things changed drastically on 2012’s I Am. Founding vocalist and bassist Jason Wisdom and founding drummer Brent “Duck” Duckett—both integral to the band’s core sound—left to focus on their personal lives, leaving guitarist and keyboardist Seth Hecox as the sole original member. Consequently, the band’s sound shifted towards a concise mixture of djent and deathcore, and while it was certainly a departure, Hecox’s songwriting ensured that it was still undeniably a Becoming the Archetype record, one that I still thoroughly enjoy. Following I Am, things went quiet, and BtA’s audience experienced a decade-long winter of despair.

But when the band’s social media pages suddenly started hinting at something new (complete with moar Dan Seagrave art), ten-years worth of icy hearts thawed in an instant. A cryptic, silhouetted photo teased the return of Wisdom and Duck, and when the first audio sample included Wisdom’s unmistakable roar, my excitement intensified to dangerous levels. With so much sentiment attached to a new Becoming the Archetype release comes a large amount of trepidation about how it will fit into the band’s wild evolution. And after my first phase of listening to Children of the Great Extinction, I was left feeling somewhat disappointed, that my score for it would land somewhere in the merely “good” range. But after taking two weeks off to listen to my other assignments, I returned to the record and found that the Becoming the Archetype magic had proliferated within the unconscious recesses of my mind; suddenly, it all made sense. Like any great progressive record, this one proves that good things come to those who repeat.

The band’s first true concept record, Children delivers its part-Dune, part-Pale Blue Dot, part-redemption myth story by way of a diverse set of songs that both harkens BtA’s past and builds upon it. The tale begins with the known, and so does the music. “The Dead World,” “The Lost Colony,” “The Remnant,” and “The Calling” all sound familiar, like classic Becoming the Archetype with a few new twists, and they set the stage by introducing the concept of a home world trying to reestablish contact with an interplanetary colony. A short respite appears in the form of classical guitar/key interlude “The Phantom Field” as a lone traveler sets out to make contact with the lost, and then that traveler (and we) come face to face with the unknown. “The Awakening” shatters our sense of duality with an intro that simultaneously recalls an American western and Eastern mysticism, then morphs into one of the heaviest songs the band has ever written. “The Hollow” starts as a standard beauty-and-the-beast” metalcore track until Hecox’s Pink Floyd solo slides into dirty blues territory and the song takes on a whole new texture. The brutal, yet accessible “The Ruins” (featuring Demon Hunter’s Ryan Clark), the dissonant deathcore of “The Curse,” and the epically sprawling “The Sacrament” bring the story to a close with perhaps the record’s most unique numbers, and when the latter ends, I’m always ready to start whole journey over again.

Back when I first encountered Becoming the Archetype, I was completely unaware of metal’s myriad sub-genres (and sub-sub-genres), and all I knew to call their sound was “awesome.” I’ve learned an enormous amount of metal terminology in the intervening years, but the band’s return finds me reverting to a state of Edenic innocence; I find Children of the Great Extinction nearly impossible to concisely classify. Filled to the brim with emotional weight, proggy surprises, and riffs, it lands as yet another jewel in an already inimitable discography.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Solid State Records
Websites: facebook.com/becomingthearchetypemusic
Releases Worldwide: August 26th, 2022


Dear Hollow

Becoming the Archetype is back, baby. The Atlanta collective’s departure left a bitter taste, that although 2012’s I Am wasn’t a bad album per se, it never quite felt like Becoming the Archetype. The act has long been a staple in my metal beginnings, albums like Terminate Damnation and Dichotomy fueling audial journeys through surreal landscapes and archaic passageways, with enough twists to beg the question: “what sorta metal are these guys anyway?” You’ll be pleased to know that a decade-long wait has not been for naught with Children of the Great Extinction—we are not slapped with I Am, Part 2, but blessed with a return to the exploratory songwriting that has long pervaded.

It’s difficult to pigeonhole Becoming the Archetype, as they blur the lines between progressive death, melodic death, metalcore, and technical metal. Easily one of the most exciting Christian metal bands, they’ve long been a crown jewel in Solid State’s roster. A notable return of the act’s longtime vocalist and bassist, Jason Wisdom, Children of the Great Extinction feels like BtA again. Further bolstered by longtime drummer John “Duck” Duckett and guitarist Seth Hecox (also providing clean vocals), the newfound trio has compiled its history with concision, fusing the breakneck brutality of Terminate Damnation with the adventurous songwriting of Dichotomy while also hinting at a newfound direction. It takes a bit of time to find its footing, but 2022 is good to Becoming the Archetype, and Children warrants a listen or two. Or three.1

While the aforementioned albums have constituted apexes in the act’s trajectory, albums The Physics of Fire and Celestial Completion were doomed by ambition. Whether it was a show-stopping guitarist (Aletheian guitarist Alex Kenis) as a band-aid over weak songwriting or a trombone breakdown that nonetheless felt forgettable, Becoming the Archetype is better off injecting experimentalism into their meandering passages. For the better, Children does exactly that, making Children of the Great Extinction a bit of a crescendo of intensity and claustrophobia. Weirder tricks like the whacky intro of “The Awakening” and the synth-guided “The Calling” showcase a willingness to right the ship where they left off, but the Dichotomy-esque crisp riffing of “The Dead World” and “The Lost Colony” show progression into the outright devastation of the Dyscarnate-flavored grooves of “The Awakening” and the Gojira-esque pinch harmonics of “The Ruins”—the latter of which showcases Ryan Clark of Demon Hunter at his most cutthroat. Closer “The Sacrament” is perhaps the strongest track here, offering synth-backed riffing, grand piano, and powerhouse vocals with the most organic songwriting of the batch, its eight-and-a-half minute runtime never feeling excessive. Constructing an album that gets heavier and more claustrophobic as it continues is a bodacious move for the band’s reemergence, and it pays off mightily.

There is a lot riding on Becoming the Archetype’s return, and the trio ends up trying just about everything to get it going. For instance, clean vocals courtesy of Hecox, are introduced with mixed results. While they offer “The Lost Colony” an emotional and atmospheric backbone, they doom “The Remnant,” already tired in its painfully excessive repetitions of semi-melodic Silent Planet-inspired riffing. While this is largely an issue of taste, the first four tracks can feel directionless and pass like a bit of a blur, its riffing crisp but not commanding and its experimentation too brief for impact, lacking purpose. By the time “The Phantom Field” hits, it feels as if Becoming the Archetype has found its footing, and the remaining tracks slam into the eardrums with more and more claustrophobic leanings, while the content previous feels scattershot and experimental without committing.

It would have been easy for Becoming the Archetype to create an album of “best ofs” or do their best to replicate exactly what made them great in the 2000s. But they’ve smartly stepped up with their most intense and brutal album so far. While its intensity recalls Terminate Damnation and its experimental tastefulness Dichotomy, there’s something heavier, darker, and more sinister lurking beneath Children of the Great Extinction. While it has its fair share of missteps and it doesn’t quite find its footing until the second act, it carves out a new direction that never neglects what made Becoming the Archetype so great to begin with.

Rating: 3.0/5.0


Show 1 footnote

  1. Or thirty. – Holdeneye
« »