By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY — Eight-string guitarist Dean Lamb and vocalist Oliver Rae Aleron are conversing with BeatRoute via Facebook on a Monday morning. Their technical death metal band Archspire has come a long, long way since our last conversation stored in the social media archives back in 2011, which involved mutual bitching about a shady promoter in Calgary ripping off multiple acts at a show where the band performed. Needless to say, things are far different now…
In the last three years, Archspire signed to the monolithic Season of Mist alongside their city mates Anciients. They are being showcased or endorsed by Ibanez, Line 6, Seymour Duncan and Roland. Their second album, The Lucid Collective, came out in April and has received glowing reviews. It’s not as if they’re rock stars but they are definitely playing better shows. However, they are still teaching guitar or cooking eggs at your favorite Vancouver diner.
“It’s been a very rewarding year for us, but we still play an obscure subgenre of metal. Our lifestyle hasn’t changed much with the growing success of our tunes,” begins Aleron. “I’m a breakfast cook and one time this waitress came into the kitchen and said, ‘My table said you’re in some big band. Are you like famous!?’ I replied, ‘Yeah, pretty sure if I was famous I wouldn’t be COOKING THEIR FUCKIN’ EGGS!’”
“But that’s what’s so great about death metal!” continues Aleron. “No matter how big the bands get, they’ll never make it to rock star status. Most of them don’t get clouded; they stay hungry and just keep trying to push out creative music because it’s what they love.”
Given the musical climate, this statement is particularly true. Archspire is one of the very, very few bands performing technical death metal, the kind that exploded in popularity in the early 2000s in Eastern Canada, to be signed to a major metal label after 2010. As of late, labels are scooping up the regressive metal à la doom, speed and classic subgenres while the technical ones have comparatively fallen by the wayside.
“Coming from Vancouver, we definitely notice the trends of popularity; lots of doom metal here, sludge and that sort of thing. We play shows in Vancouver and get a decent turnout, but Vancouver isn’t exactly the most happening “tech death” scene, you know? There are some awesome bands in Vancouver that are doing some stuff that is relatively similar, but most others aren’t focusing on extreme metal,” agrees Lamb.
“We thank our fans for being so stoked on what we are doing, and we really notice the support when we go to cities like Montreal where this type of music is pretty celebrated. We get messages from all over the world every day from fans wanting to see us live, so we take it as a regional popularity thing.”
Undeterred, Archspire have marched onwards, and been rewarded handsomely. They boast over 70,000 fans on Facebook, and people worldwide are raving about their technical prowess and lyrical complexity, which is on display in full effect on The Lucid Collective. Conceptually, the album is based on the question, “Could the human mind hold the capacity to comprehend being suddenly exposed to infinite parallel realities?”
“I prefer to write lyrics conceptually as opposed to personally or emotionally. Growing up a big fan of horror/sci-fi, my creative writing just naturally gravitated towards those themes. As a child I used to have fevers where I would hallucinate objects being simultaneously minute and immense,” Aleron elaborates. “Trying to fathom the idea of all matter containing infinite depth is equally amazing as it is frightening, so I thought it could make a cool album concept.”
Although you’d be hard pressed to understand a damn thing that the vocalist delivers in his trademark-garbled bark, the music conveys complexity all on its own. This is music with incredible finesse and you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking this is computer generated in some fashion, given the incessant blast beats, virtuosic guitar noodling that never crosses into wankery and jaw-dropping time signature jumps. This stems from a vast number of musical influences and contributions from each founding member, along with a few inspiring bands in their local scene, Aleron explains.
“Spencer [Prewett, drummer] only listens to music with crazy fast drumming. [Lamb] likes all that proggy guitar porn stuff. Tobi [Morelli, seven-string guitarist] listens to a lot of old-school death metal. I’m really into the speed-rap dudes like R.A. the Rugged Man, Tech N9ne, Busta Ryhmes…. I think Bushwacker and Ogroem are doing some really cool stuff that stands out in the local scene. As for new tech bands, The Zenith Passage are killing it right now! First Fragment, Unhuman and Fallujah are a few other bands that have some new amazing material to be released soon.”
So maybe things aren’t so hard for technical death bands… At least for the ones doing it right, and contributing something to the overall soundscapes embedded within the genre. Hell, even for bands named Archspire who started out by playing their first show in “cities like Edmonton, with ONE person attending.”
“I’m happy to say we have AT LEAST doubled that number, if not tripled!” types Lamb, who must be laughing at the absurdity of the statement.
Aleron finishes amicably, “If we are in your town, come watch us go fast, shotgun a beer with us in the parking lot, and of course… Stay Tech!”
Watch Archspire at Armstrong Metal Festival in Armstrong, British Columbia on Saturday, July 19th.AB, Alberta, Archspire, Armstrong, Armstrong Metal Festival, BC, British Columbia