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Fast talkin' - 90%

MikeyC, February 9th, 2018

Since they first dropped their debut album All Shall Align, Archspire have been hell-bent on creating some of the fastest technical death metal this side of Origin. While I believe firmly that they achieved that on their last album The Lucid Collective, it wasn’t until they released this one that the band had finally gained some extra attention. It’s actually totally warranted, too, as their third effort Relentless Mutation contains some of their strongest material to date.

The first song and what will likely be a crowd favourite at shows, “Involuntary Doppelganger,” introduces the idea of what this album is all about. Before you can settle in, you’re bombarded with what might be the fastest vocal delivery in death metal up to now. Oli Peters really goes all out with his vocals on this release, expanding on what he was doing on the previous two albums, and dictates at velocities that would humiliate a hurtling comet. While this happens all over the album, the two songs that really test his speed, and the listener’s comprehension, are the previously mentioned “Involuntary Doppelganger,” and “Calamus Will Animate.” The former is just a total barrage of vocal lines, coming at you from all directions, and frying your brain with endless words and syllables. The latter is more a controlled machine gun (literally) – a constant, automatic stream of consciousness that really takes some lung control to pull off correctly. Both songs perfectly encapsulate the talent of Peters here, and, while unrelenting vocal lines seem downright silly and gimmicky, I assure you that Archspire are not a gimmick. Even when the vocals are their own riff in “Human Murmuration,” which just happens to be my favourite song here, they are integrated in such a way to make them work for the band and take their unique talents beyond a mere gimmick.

More to that point, the vocals would be less important if the lyrics were amateurish, but that is another aspect of the band that has taken a giant leap. Not one single curse word is uttered throughout the album, and the lyrics deal with something called the A.U.M. and their “drip” which is actually a fascinating read if you want to read the booklet. This type of sci-fi concept is perfect for Archspire, and they clearly put a lot of thought into their themes.

Beyond the vocals and lyrics, the music itself is still top-notch, and totally what you would expect from a band like this who try to defy the limits of human speed. This defiance is mostly shown in the drumming, with alternating hand-blasts and the wave after wave of double kicking bursts. It creates the perfect backdrop to the music and even gets some time to properly shine in “Relentless Mutation.” The bigger star of the show here, though, is the guitar work. Sweeping and soloing to their heart’s content. But even though the guitars are designed for speed and heaviness, they aren’t afraid to have a melodic edge, shown in some of the melody-infused riffs of “A Dark Horizontal” and “The Mimic Well,” plus the atmospheric sections to break up their riff and drum attack, for example “Involuntary Doppelganger” and “The Mimic Well.” The bass guitar, while sometimes getting lost in the melee, does get chances to come up and show that he can also bust out some riffs on his own.

It may seem that Relentless Mutation is nothing more than just a whirlwind of notes and beats that make no sense, but despite their speed, there’s actually plenty to catch on to, and the music is created in such a way that there’s time to still get your bearings. The vocal break in “Human Murmuration,” the second half of “Remote Tumour Seeker,” the melodic closing of “The Mimic Well” are but a few examples of Archspire knowing what the music needs and making sure that they don’t get too ahead of themselves when speed is the name of the game. This forethought is a big reason why this album work so well. It’s not just half an hour of blur – there’s a clear and direct path to this madness, and they have created seven songs worth of clarity to what they wanted to achieve. Speediness with catchiness.

Relentless Mutation is not perfect by any means. “The Mimic Well” is probably the weakest song here, and I thought they could’ve reduced the number of clean guitar sections in an album that barely cracks 30 minutes. However, I can’t deny that there is a lot to like here, and this band is rightfully leading the pack and can have a very bright future if they stick to their guns. The vocals are the focal point here, but the whole package works really well and is absolutely worth listening to if you’re a fan of this type of hyperblasting sonic madness.