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Infinitely more tolerable - 68%

Noktorn, April 30th, 2009

It's hard for me to precisely articulate why I find this album so much more tolerable than the first Quinta Essentia release; it's substantially less obnoxious and cloying for some reason, and while still technically masturbatory to the extreme, this seems to be overall a much less pretentious release that has embraced its purpose as an elaborate and occasionally enjoyable tech demo. There's nothing particularly wrong with that sort of thing in and of itself; just when it's trying to pretend to be high art.

A lot of the more 'extreme' elements of the band's debut seem to have been excised for this, leaving a highly neoclassical breed of slightly more aggressive than typical melodic death metal. Arsis is a very easy reference point for this release; it lacks some of that band's atonality and more excessively shredding sections, generally sticking to typically melodic works, but the similarities beyond that are very clear. Clean vocals are sporadically used and the production is equally clean and vast as the first album, so I'm forced to admit that much of the improvement on this album must be a result of songwriting alone.

While inherently the same in style, 'Archetypal Transformation' feels a great deal more restrained than 'Neutrality For Defined Chaos'. While that release was infatuated with its particular breed of Jerry Bruckheimer metal, this album doesn't have quite so many sections which desperately seem to be attempting to be epic. Most of this music is based around intricate lead guitar work and soloing over rather conventional (though non-Gothenburg) melodic death riffing and a relatively deft drum performance. Vocal styles are varied though all revolving around the base of high melodic death growls: occasional forays into clean and black metal style vocals occur simply to increase the technical breadth of the work, but they're incorporated at more logical, pivotal moments rather than the seemingly random inclusions that they were on the first release.

The song structures have improved vastly, and I think that's the source of most of the improvement on this release. 'Neutrality For Defined Chaos' sounded almost wholly incoherent, all riffs and rhythms simply strung together to find an excuse for yet more soloing. This album is as lead-dominant as the first, but the song structures make much more logical sense; the rhythm guitars punch out conventional but at least rational and intelligently structured riffs and the soloing seems more melodic and narrative than it was on the first release. The overall tone is less obsessively epic and more grounded; as the band was never very good at actually creating an epic soundscape, this is for the best.

I still don't particularly like this, but I can at the very least stomach 'Archetypal Transformation'. It's listenable music, if still very uninspired and not particularly exciting, and it won't offend anyone entrenched in extreme metal. If you are particularly enamored with guitar theatrics in extreme metal (re: a Necrophagist fan), you'll probably enjoy this a great deal more than me. Anyway, if you have to pick up one album by these guys, it should certainly be this one rather than the completely intolerable last. Not bad; it's rare that you hear a band which manages to make such a vast improvement.