Bleed the Future (2021) is the latest album from the definitive tech death band Archspire. Archspire’s incredibly fast and brutal death metal set an unchallenged precedent back when The Lucid Collective released in 2014, and, by following it up three years later with Relentless Mutation, the band staked their claim utterly alone at the top of the tech death food chain – nobody plays faster, harder, or more intensely than the talented Toronto tech death team. The only problem with being the fastest, hardest, and most intense band, however, is that you can’t get faster, harder, or more intense – or so it was thought. Bleed the Future proves that there is no such thing as a superlative, and that to be truly the best you must always surpass yourself….and so Relentless Mutation surpassed The Lucid Collective, and Bleed the Future has surpassed Relentless Mutation. So get ready, because this album is truly faster than light, harder than bedrock, and more intense than a drill sergeant who got into the DEA evidence lockers.
We leap into a brutal verse, lazer sharp riffs and hammering chugs crowning machine-like drumming, staccato strumming strobing erratically, maddening mini-breakdowns halting for harking, hoarse vocals, and absolute face melting action swirling around us in a tornado of liquified flesh. There’s no doubt: Archspire is back. While showcasing unparalleled instrumental prowess, the band also maintains their mastery of atmospheric entrapment through precise sound and visceral lyrics, not straying far from the themes they’ve been developing since their debut in 2014. Drone Corpse Aviator is a clear homage to the previous album’s antagonist, “The Drip,” describing horrific scenes of cadavers being reanimated by onyx bile and black-vested death cultists worshipping through corrupted sanguine rituals. These disturbing and frankly metal-as-hell scenes are a staple of Archspire lead vocalist Oli Peter’s immersive and grim nightmare fiction; Peters has always placed an immense emphasis on the captivating and unforgiving world in which the albums take place, and without his macabre creativity, listening to Archspire just wouldn’t be the same experience. The same thrilling experience, I should say, as Drone Corpse Aviator grabs hold from the start with a fade in similar to the one from Human Murmuration 4 years prior, yet much faster and more aggressive, perfectly and immediately addressing a recurring trend on Bleed the Future. This speed and aggression pauses briefly, as usual, for an instrumental break consisting of graceful cymbal work and beautiful–yet sorrowful–string playing the likes of which we’ve come to expect from its absolute mastery on Relentless Mutation. Two of these instrumentals precede a banger breakdown and iconic “DRONE CORPSE AVIATOR!!!” respectively, and cement the song as exactly what everyone was hoping for and more from Bleed the Future.
“Buduh-caduh buduh-caduh buduh-caduh buduh-cadah BOOM” is how Archspire first teased the new album with Golden Mouth of Ruin a couple of weeks ago, and to be honest I haven’t listened to much else since (spoiler alert, so far this is my favorite song on the album). The title, Golden Mouth of Ruin, is referencing Peters’s newest creation, the Boanet, alien-human hybrids with giant golden xenomorphic maws on the backs of their heads–crazy and brutal, but par for the course with Archspire. Chugs are the main idea here, with a steady eighth note riff testing just how much your ears are accustomed to the nuance of the 8-string death metal guitar while short rests add an extra layer of rhythmic complexity. As any seasoned death metal fan can tell you, chugs are only half of the story when it comes to death metal guitars: “weedly-dee’s” and “noodly-doo’s” also make up the core harmonic diversity in tech death, and emerge almost exclusively to deliquesce your countenance–that is to say, melt your face. One thing in particular I like about this song is the arrangement of the solo section: the backgrounds begin at about a minute and fifty seconds in, shrouding a gnarly bass solo with savage vocals only to drop the voice and replace the bass solo with an identical guitar one, a drum fill, and a rhythm guitar solo before repeating with additional vocals. It has a lot of character and is an interesting look into how to effectively repeat solo ideas in a death metal setting, considering that often tech death solos are strictly weedly-dee shred fests with no discernable repetition (they’re still great though!).
The title Abandon the Linear sounds very similar to a lyric from the bridge section in A Dark Horizontal, “defying the linear,” and I’m not sure what the “linear” is, but knowing Peters’s work it’s likely something that kills you or maims you or turns you into dust or melts your bones. Just a guess. And I’m kidding of course, because as a die-hard Archspire fan I know that the “linear” refers to “The story about the first two people who share the exact same dream. One man becomes blood, and the woman turns to sand, together they merge and form the shoreline of a new dimension. Others begin to join their dream, and with each new being the dimension grows larger, essentially creating a new earth free of linear time. Basically it’s about two minds constructing matter from the unification of consciousness during lucid dreaming,” which is a quote from Peters about his lyricism in the first album, The Lucid Collective, so the “linear” refers to linear time. Oh, right, uh, onto the song. I love the intro’s slow repeating riff and epic background solo which sets up a verse of uncanny barbarity, which in turn precedes an exceedingly filthy bass section (I’m talking covered in grease, exuding an absolutely revolting miasma of pestilence and decay). After that, a bar of rest sets up a badass solo that oversees a brief return to the initial motif. There’s a lot of relatively restrained guitar work in this song that creates peaks and valleys, accentuating a musical disparity sorely needed in the genre. Abandon the Linear is also a great lyrical piece: phrases like “laughing up blood” and “a state of savage bliss” help justify the claim that death metal screams aren’t all edgy nonsense, and in this case actually have some very respectable and impressive (but still quite edgy) prose behind them.
The titular track instantly displays its rhythmic motif through sharp monophonic phrasing that coalesces drums, strings, and vocals into one force: “Be-fore, AnythingExpelled, BreathUponTheEarth, BoanetHadFormed” (or “BAEBUTEBHF” for short) are the words being “spoken” during that intro motif, and the aforementioned staccato monophonic phrasing is very subtly reminiscent of the intro on the previous album’s Calamus Will Animate, but that’s a bit of a stretch, even for me. Adding to the song’s individuality and character, the initial rhythmic idea is repeated in varying ways from a brief bridging phrase to a time signature shift in the verse (a bar of 7 into a bar of 8 begun and ended with the initial “bum-bum”). This song is an absolute POWERHOUSE and pulls no punches, holds no bars, and follows no rules; Bleed the Future might not be my favorite song on the album (yet), but a part of me knows it’s probably the best. Drawing from all that Archspire has accomplished in the past, this song takes inspiration from the aforementioned vocal solo on Calamus Will Animate, the elegant instrumental mastery of Relentless Mutation, and the absolutely DISGUSTING soloing that defined The Lucid Collective and mashes it all together with the band’s newfound speed and ferocity to create an anthem so completely encapsulating of all the band is, was, and will be. Bleed the Future stands as what may be the pinnacle of tech death today, and is further proof that the only band that has shown itself capable of surpassing Archspire is Archspire itself.
Drain of Incarnation starts very prettily, with a lovely siren song that lures you in, captivates you, holds you, grabs you, and then screams in your face – can’t have too much beauty in a genre called “death metal,” I guess. The verse slams you hard, with a 3/4 time signature atop a solid quarter note foundation and an eagerness to jump into soloing that occurs briefly before shifting focus back to the atypical quarter note cornerstone. A more typical breakdown follows, packing some of the fastest blast beats in the industry courtesy of Archspire’s resident human-octopus hybrid: Spencer Prewett, a machine more than a man whose ligaments and tissue have been replaced by hydraulics and steel fueled by a concentrated solution of pure dedication. Screeches, speed, and staccato spaces are dominating the song, swirling around eardrums and popping in and out of existence like whack-a-mole. More solos, more face melting, more blast beats, and more Archspire goodness close out the song while adhering respectfully to its incredibly confident rhythmic composition. Lyrically, Drain of Incarnation seems to be about a similar subject to The Mimic Well: both the Drain and the Well birth creatures of the Drip, they are both horrific pits of tar, and they are both semi-sentient alien entities. Unlike the Well however, the Drain is on fire. Constantly. And everything that comes out of it is on fire. Constantly. I’m not quite sure how that could possibly benefit the survival of any organism (or how it could get any edgier), but it gives Peters a reason to write a line in Latin (which always makes things more badass), “Ignis Nativitas,” which, if my memory of Catholic school Latin serves me well, means something like “Nativity of Fire.” Fitting.
The beginning of Acrid Canon is so damn cool it could freeze the balls off of Aten. The powerful, epic melody and outstanding background atmosphere are only hindered by the innate brevity of any given section in a teach death song, but not for no good reason, as the song returns to it soon enough. There’s a lot of traditional tech death stuff going on, with vicious distortion and blast beats padding the time between the afore-drooled-over intro/chorus section that makes Acrid Canon so unique. The song soon jumps back to that chorus section again, and back to that same damn ridiculously legendary melody and background with a nice, low, very Meshuggah-like chord on the third beat of the seventh bar that stands out to me and really seals the section up well in my opinion. This song is nothing if not brutal, and I imagine it really appeals to the hardcore moshers in their audience (but what Archspire song doesn’t?). The last solo, the chord progression before it, and the outro after it are a gnarly triple threat that complement the intro/chorus very nicely and fade the tune out with gravitas. Acrid Canon also tells a great story about, well, acrid canon (most Archspire songs are titled after the subject of the piece, and this is no exception). Evidently, someone has a Boanet growing inside them (think chestbursters from Alien) and it’s just about ready to hatch. The death cult “A.U.M.,” a recurring group in Archspire lyrics, knows of this and detains the narrator for experimentation and analysis; as the examination happens, the Boanet in a neaby subject begins to hatch, causing the narrator to violently vomit. Upon sight of the “four foot coiling gleaming slug” breaching his fellow prisoner’s sternum, the protagonist loses consciousness, however not before making sure to internalize this experience in his “acrid canon.” He later wakes up under hazmatted scientists, wondering, nay, hoping, that it was all just a horrific nightmare, but “peering around the room again, [he] saw the gore that proved it happened.” Such a sight prompts another vomiting episode so repulsive that his captors all “recoil enough for [him] to run away,” and he heads for the nearest town to find some semblance of salvation. But salvation is still second to savagery in this septic surrealism and scalped, strung up children greet our protagonist in droves – he tries to free them, but instead “caused them to scream, alerting their harvesters.” He dives into a car and drives off, soon glancing down at his chest to find a sign fallen from a skinned child “that stuck to [him] with clotting blood,” instructing him to transcribe runes with chalk made of bone; this esoteric scripture haunts his last moments of consciousness while he scribbles down the little he can articulate before pounding the car horn in pain as the Boanet rapidly grows in his chest, his last, desperate, panicked words echoing out, “this thing is in me, the Boanet’s growing… the creature is in me, the Boanet’s growing, the Boanet’s growing, the Boanet is coming out…”
When I first heard Reverie on the Onyx I couldn’t believe my ears – my all time favorite classical piece and what I would argue is the most well-known track from Mozart’s requiem mass, Lacrimosa, seemed to be playing through the same headphones I was listening to death metal on. It took little time for me to realize exactly what had happened; Archspire had done the one thing I had always wanted but never expected them to do: read my mind. The long-term implications of that discovery have yet to breach my conscious, and despite the fact that I should be worried that 5 burly Canadian men now have unbridled access to my deepest ruminations, I still assert that it is a worthwhile trade. Severe breaches of personal privacy aside, the fact that they made Lacrimosa into a tech death song blows my mind; this is some Symphony X material. Frequent returns to the Lacrimosa motif in varying styles make this song incredibly unique and an absolute pleasure to listen to, not to mention the fact that everything not directly mimicking the motif is still inspired by it, creating a piece as centered around something else as it is around itself, if that makes any sense.
The last track on Bleed the Future, A.U.M., starts with a phone call like Gojira’s 04, except that this time it’s not 50th birthday wishes, but rather a perturbed German preaching personal problems – this nameless European has little in common with the average Archspire listener, save maybe the last quote, “bring back the f****** danger in the music!” Actually, so much so that last quote that the band almost named the album “Bring Back the F****** Danger” (I suspect I’m not alone in an immense relief that they chose not to). The moment this phone call ends, one “ting” followed by an incredibly high-tempo and brutal chug riff set this song up as a no-nonsense tech death masterpiece, further reinforced by an aggressively Archspire verse complete with a rising and descending guitar solo adding flavor to the initial hammering riff. Musically, this song is FAST – it’s quick, speedy, rapid, brisk, what have you. Even the polyrhythmic 5-over-4 instrumental is fast as a bat outta hell, with a nimble bass line and swift guitar riff setting the stage for one of the most effective solos on the album, and shining above the chug riff’s unrelenting cacophony is the shrieking guitar and unforgiving vocals that explode until the very end.
Bleed the Future may be the fastest, hardest, and most intense album I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. To live at the same time as people who make that level of music is such an absolute privilege, and without Archspire I may not love metal as much as I do today. When I discovered them in late 2019, I feasted on Relentless Mutation until I knew every second of every song, then at the start of 2021 I dined on The Lucid Collective; now my hunger is sated once again. Archspire, like any good band, has fostered a passionate community, of which I am glad to be a part. And, furthermore, I am now proud to be a contributing part of that community, with this review hopefully being the small stain I leave behind on their presence that serves as proof that I truly do appreciate their music for all its worth and more.
Archspire might be the only band to make a half hour of music last more than 3 years, 3 times.