Archspire rages with the machine

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Vancouver quintet had its hyperactive music used in an AI music experiment.

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Stuart Derdeyn Members of the Vancouver technical-death metal band Archspire. For March 2018 feature story in the Vancouver Sun and Province. (Photo credit: Alex Morgan Imaging) [PNG Merlin Archive] Members of the Vancouver technical-death metal band Archspire. For March 2018 feature story in the Vancouver Sun and Province. (Photo credit: Alex Morgan Imaging) [PNG Merlin Archive] PNG

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Archspire Bleed the Future Album Release

When : Sold out; postponed

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Where : Rickshaw Theatre, 254 E. Hastings

Tickets and info : Rickshawtheatre.com

In 2019, Vancouver quintet Archspire got an unexpected career boost.

The group’s 2017 album Relentless Mutation was used as source material for a music-generating AI named Dadabots, developed by Berklee College of Music graduates Zack Zukowski and CJ Carr. It turned out that the band’s songs were some of the only ones that didn’t cause the AI’s musical creations to crash.

Dadabots’ neural network proved able to differentiate among heavy metal styles such as death, math, extreme and other sub-genres and began broadcasting its musical creations non-stop. The sounds generated were surprisingly listenable and the designers gave credit to the source material for this success. The consensus expressed in listeners’ comments was that the AI had a ways to go to equal the manic energy, razor-sharp precision playing and attack of source material.

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Archspire is back with a new album that leaves most of its contemporaries behind in terms of execution and scope. With its eight tracks clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Bleed the Future is a study in focused intensity and marks a group moving its music to the next level. Listening to the album, one wonders if the group’s goal is to try to make everything they write as complex as possible.

“We started the band with the goal of making absolutely the fastest, craziest, most technical music we can possibly write and still manage to play live, while still featuring a cool ton of melody that sticks in your head as well,” said guitarist Dean Lamb. “Once you’ve done that, you can’t really slow it down. So every subsequent album ups the ante, every time has to be crazier, and we use beats per minute as a measurement to make our fastest song ever.”

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Lamb expands on this BPM-inspired songwriting process, noting that the members regularly start off with ideas that they can hardly realize instrumentally and work toward mastering the challenges. This can mean going for the most intense riffs and mathematical execution or coming up with the catchiest ear worm that can be paired with the combo’s — admittedly — outsider genre. Resetting the bar has been key in keeping Archspire going for a dozen years.

Lead singer Oli Peters is key to the appeal of the band’s albums. His rapid-fire lyrics somehow manage to be clean and clearly understood even though they are delivered at a pace that is next-to-impossible to recreate. His delivery owes as much to experimental hip-hop rap as metal.

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“Oh yeah, we often get these comments talking about the amazing music, amazing playing but what’s up with the Limp Bizkit crap,” said Peters. “That hip hop influence was very intentional and we are all on board with that, so it’s a burn on everyone when we get those comments. But incorporating that enabled the clear lyric enunciation just like we wanted to have very clear tones so you can hear the solos separate from everything else and so on.”

Golden Mouth of Ruin, the leadoff single from Bleed the Future, delivers on all of the previously mentioned fronts.

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Beginning with drummer Spencer Prewett setting the lightning speed, Lamb and fellow eight-string guitarist Tobi Morelli follow with rapid-fire licks and bassist Jared Smith somehow fits in some fast-funk. Over it all, Peters rages. Even amid all this furious release, the musicians still manage to deliver some classic headbanging grooves. The production is pristine.

Prolific metal producer/engineer/mixer Dave Otero is well known for his work with such metal acts as Khemmis, Cattle Decapitation and Tetrarch. Bleed the Future is his second album with Archspire. He says that the band’s uniqueness within the technical/extreme death metal genre presents its own unique set of demands, particularly training himself to read along to the lyrics as fast as Otero sings them.

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“It’s important to reach for clear tones in the initial mix phase, but it’s really the attention to detail in the tracking process where that clarity comes through,” said Otero. “A lot of decisions are made at that stage to modify a riff or a section a bit to make room for another layer to have space to shine and so forth, and Dave’s vocals are a particular focal point planned and discussed from the beginning. That is one of the most unique parts of what sets the band apart from their peers, and I’ll spend twice as long working on that aspect to arrive at that final combination of pristine clarity paired with sonic pummelling.”

For all the instrumental prowess and conceptual rigour that goes into making an Archspire recording, only bassist Smith has formal musical training. The sound and style was all a product of wanting to create art that appealed to all of the band members.

“Everything comes together in really cool combinations born out of our mutual appreciation for fast music, fast rap and classical,” said Lamb. “Key is pushing ourselves to get to the next level and that can require more than just practice.”

“It also becomes very physical, from Spencer working out to get his foot speed even faster to me finding new exercises to make my voice to go higher and so on,” said Peters. “It’s a matter of learning how to not strain, but to be constantly pushing the boundaries.”

Competing with robots helps, too.

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