Sporting an absolutely coin-turn-precise mechanic, furious blasts and tasteful, nuanced grooves, the drumwork on Archspire’s latest highly-acclaimed opus ‘Relentless Mutation’ is just one of many stellar albums in a modern technical death metal tour-de-force.
Enjoying a bit of downtime (apart from a slew of press interviews, of course), Overdrive caught up with the man on skins, Spencer Prewett. The rhythmic nutcase mused on the changes between the US, Canada and Japan on an ‘absolutely exhausting but ultimately worthwhile’ seven-week-straight tour. Having toured on an almost relentless schedule since their latest album release, and working through physically demanding and cognitively challenging music, you’d think these tech-death fiends would be up for a break. ‘We’re itching to get back out and play again,’ he noted, ‘even if we still need to stretch it out and relax a bit.’ Slightly worn in expression, there was an almost Freudian tear between his apparent exhaustion and the underlying fire to press onwards with touring.
After a few weeks’ jaunt across North America, the Archspire crew decided to bring some shows to the Orient. Citing Japan as ‘something altogether different’, when queried he noted he was taken aback at the ‘quietness, politeness and organisation of the place, even though it’s an absolute madhouse.’ So, essentially, without firsthand experience the place seems to speak to its’ own stereotypes, but in a positive and curious fashion. No wonder more and more metal bands are choosing to fly out of their way to tour there.
As for the crowd reaction, Spencer chuckles that ‘people were literally standing around during soundcheck reading books, trying their best not to make a scene. Even after the lights come on and they’re all screaming, the crowd would be waiting for you take the lead.’ Somewhat different cultural norms didn’t appear to be an issue for the fan, who had ‘fan swarming us looking for autographs and praising us, the full rock-star treatment.’
A slightly different tangent from the usual elbows, shouts and booze-addled heckling you’d come to expect from the average Western show. ‘It was nice,’ he adds with some pause, ‘because in the US and Canada it’s the usual rowdy beers-flying-at-you type of show, which is great too’. Remarking upon this and warning him to expect him to expect much of the same from us elicited a good laugh and a wry ‘Cool’. Don’t worry guys, no need to stow away the beers just yet.
And what of our relatively underdeveloped but boisterous culture? ‘I’ve never been to Australia before and this is our first time touring there.’ Noting that the band have definitely felt an increased presence in fanfare from down south here, Prewett became a fair bit more animated when discussing the upcoming tour with Psycroptic and Hadal Maw. ‘I am damn keen to try all your craft beers, check out the scenery, the cities and what they have to offer, and to mingle with nice Australian people.’ Aw. Shucks mate. We’ll show ‘em a good time, won’t we?
But one wonders, how does such relentless slogging on the skins at high tempos and with multiple, complex, meandering time-signatures, blasts and beats translate to a live setting when you’re facing multiple (or, in their recent example, dozens) of nights in a row? ‘We wrote the third album a bit smarter overall, and with that in mind,’ he notes in regards to the complex and physical nature of the shows. ‘I was actually more conscious of swapping up techniques that would work opposing muscle groups to keep the speed up.’ Interesting, considering how frenetic and schizoid the patterns, grooves and polyrhythms are throughout ‘
‘When I’m warming up and practicing, which can be up to two hours per day, I’m seeing what specific techniques will fit within those higher beat-per-minute ranges such as 270-350’. 350bpm?! Woah, dude.
‘Yeah man. It isn’t easy, but we don’t play for easy. Luckily, the crowd reaction seems to be mirroring the bigger success of the latest album which really reinforces and helps us play.’ Evidently, the man has thought of literally everything from creating a positive feedback loop from the audience to considering physical finesse. Guess when you play tech-death, you’re going to be a strategic person.
Interestingly, those almost trademark staccato-scat-style vocals we hear on the new album are as influential on the songwriting and live process for his drumming as the riffs bassline or melodies. ‘When I helped start up Archspire, I was really looking for Spawn of Possession styled vocals. However, both Oli (Aleron, vocals) and I were listening to a lot of Tech N9ne and other modern rappers who used super-tight and erratic breathing patterns to make this intensely fast vocals. That’s what we decided we wanted for Archspire.’
The dynamic even goes as far as to have what he names a ‘syllable rule’, which sounds like pure linguistics, no death metal! ‘Essentially, because certain syllables require more enunciation, we will change up the vocal dynamic depending on what speed we’re playing what song live.’ Varying tempos on-the-fly allegedly helps ‘keep things fresh’ and is ‘done within a pretty small tempo range, so it’s not too noticeable but helps change things for us.’
So really, amongst all the other musical sorcery and calculated gymnastics, live aficionados will have a game of trying to discern whether or not the band are literally playing with the songs outside of playing verbatim, a trope many other technical death metal acts are known for with impressive but less-than-animated performances.
‘Yeah, we’re not like that at all’, Prewett rebukes. ‘Get ready for a real energetic, high-octane show, ‘cause we’re real excited to be playing in Australia with your bands and for your people, and we’re going to make sure it’s an intense performance!’
Hoo-boy. Can not wait. Be sure to watch these tech-death chameleons shape-shift their transdimensional hyper-speed scat death soon, on their upcoming national tour supporting Tassie tech-devils Psycroptic and brutal up-and-comers Hadal Maw. Mosh on.
Get your tickets to see Archspire of their 2018 Australian Tour HERE!