Co-written with Gian. You can chat with him on his last.fm
Becoming the Archetype - I Am
Solid State Records
Genre: Melodic Metalcore/Death Metal
Links: Band Facebook
Chis McCane (vocals)
Seth Hecox (guitar/keys)
Daniel Gailey (guitar)
Codey Watkins (bass)
Chris Heaton (drums)
Becoming the Archetype’s sound can now be described as a goodly portion of death metal with a large helping of hardcore. In the past, the band has dipped its foot in the waters of the hardcore scene, but has not stayed there long; now, they have immersed themselves wholly and there is no going back. While this review is about the new Becoming the Archetype, it is only fair to long-time fans to explain a few of the changes that have taken place. Jason Wisdom left the band after Celestial Completion in lieu of family matters, and it wasn’t long before new vocalist Chris McCane took over. His growls are dense, guttural and nasty, but less distinguishable than Jason’s. Codey Watkins took over on bass, which left Count Seth as the only longtime band member. Suffice it to say that with such a lineup change, the music and vision of the band has changed as well.
So how has Becoming the Archetype’s sound changed? We must venture back to 2008 when Dichotomy was released, an album that easily mixed beautiful electronic melodies with technical Extol-esque riffs and heavy (yet well placed) breakdowns. Now, you might ask how does this relate to I Am? The black lakes in which thousands of unoriginal bands swim everyday are plagued with breakdowns; this guitar technique carries a certain stigma and even though many people have called it a lazy or boring excuse to songwriting, others may argue how it sometimes gives birth to minimalistic wonders. Dichotomy was one of these wonders. With the elimination of certain death metal characteristics the album mostly relied on breakdowns as its main driving force; they carried the album throughout its interesting conceptual path. Whereas many modern bands are dependent on breakdowns, Becoming the Archetype used breakdowns as a method to enhance their music. It is sad that in 2012 the band has almost become dependent on that force, the force that once softly touched songs like “Artificial Immortality” and made them excellent songs.
I Am is compromised of 10 tracks, most of which are short in length and do not get past the four-minute mark. The production for this one was handled by Shane Frisby. The mix seems rather weak; Tue Madsen over-emphasizes the guitars and leaves the bass buried underneath. The lead guitar is loud, as expected from a modern metalcore band, and such mix adds too much power to the constant palm-muting from Daniel Gailey. As a result of this, Cody Watkins’ work is unnoticeable unless you pay sharp attention to a certain down-tuned breakdown here and there and hopefully notice his low-end. Christ Heaton is a good drummer and he does a great job replacing Duck, but some fills sound too close as a result of the way he hits the snare. However, this may not be entirely his fault, as the way that Troy Glessnar mastered the drums makes them feel irritating at times. Chris McCane’s vocals are well placed, although you won’t understand much of what he is saying; but he sounds great. His growls are not as massive in range as Jason’s but he delivers similarly. His vocals emotionally complement Seth’s rhythmic job on the keyboards/guitars inducing a nice, mysterious atmosphere, one that at times recalls 2008’s Dichotomy and Silent Civilian’s Ghost Stories. At times there are even similarities to alien-themed deathcore bands like Abiotic.
It is important to mention that I Am follows a concept. It seems to tell us the story of a holy creation and its destruction from God’s point of view, and how he controls that creation. While the band might not have captured the musical brilliance of their past, they maintain their lyrical themes intact, and that’s remarkable after such a line-up change. Becoming the Archetype has kept their strong Christian, well-written lyricism and I Am is full of it.
The album starts with “The Ocean Walker.” The song opens with some mysterious guitar lines by Seth, but this doesn’t last long because as soon as it is over you are attacked by a swarm of breakdowns and some melodic riffs; like a virus slowly infecting its host this motif affects the quality of I Am as a whole, even though this track is one of the most enjoyable ones. The breakdowns don’t take much from it and the “clean” vocals in the track are gritty and attractive. The single most important aspect from this song is that it is well written. The transitions from heavy breakdowns to melodic passages and clean vocals on numerous songs seems forced and don’t flow as naturally as they should. Is the band trying to appeal to a more hardcore-centric audience by the means of clean-singing? Becoming the Archetype has incorporated clean vocals in the past but they have never felt forced or as cliché as the ones on I Am. At times the band Aletheian comes to mind, as their clean vocals always seemed to be out of time. “The Time Bender” is the single from the LP and the second track on the album; it is a nice song but in the absence of a good melody we are given too many breakdowns that drag on for far too long. Some of the best moments on I Am were the ones in which this motif was almost completely abandoned for the sake of intricate riffing and tremendous drumming that harkens back to 2005’s Terminate Damnation. A perfect example would be “The War Ender;” such a track juxtaposes the technical riffing and Extol-inspired drumming from old BTA and mixes them with the core-spirit of the new line-up. This results in an incredible song that is only affected by Chris’s uninspired growling at certain points. Songs like “The Weapon Breaker,” on the other hand, return to a dull workday that features a lifeless twenty second guitar solo that does not fits very well. Unfortunately, there's not much to said besides a Claudio Sanchez run-of-the-mill earmark on "The Planet Maker"that is completely out of place and hackneyed. However, two highlights of the album include “The Machine Killer,” an enjoyable piano melody, and the title track I Am, which is one of the most mature tracks on the album.
It is always interesting to see bands change, whether the changes are of a positive or negative nature. This remains a common problem among fans; some people are met with their high expectations and surprised by new twists, while others feel let-down by the band they once loved. In the end, I Am is a ravishing beast that snarls its way through numerous breakdowns and riffing to give us a rather caustic and somewhat unsettling final verdict. We catch glimpses of this monster in all its horrifying glory; yet where once Becoming the Archetype glittered with iridescent scales of captivating melody, the beast now before us is rather average in its composition and scope.
Overall rating: 6.7 out of 10.0 (Average)
Musicianship: 7.0 out of 10.0
Song structure: 6.0 out of 10.0
Album structure: 7.0 out of 10.0
How did I come up with my rating? I rate the following categories: musicianship, song structure, and album structure. I then take an average of these three scores and come up with an overall rating.
1.0-2.9 (Poor: musicianship is poor, song structures are haphazard, no directional flow)
3.0-4.9 (Good: musicianship is sloppy, song structures are undeveloped, flow is hampered)
5.0-6.9 (Average: musicianship is adequate, song structures are good, flow works most of the time)
7.0-8.9 (Excellent: musicianship is very good, song structures are thought out, songs connect well)
9.0-9.9 (Superior: musicianship is superb, song structures are varied, flow is almost flawless)
Note: Ratings may be given in increments of 0.1 for a final score (rounded up) and 0.5 for individual category scores. I will never give a rating of 10.0 because I do not believe that any one album can be "perfect," and the ratings at either end of the spectrum will be very few.
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