Reviewed: September 2022
Released: 2022, Solid State Records
Reviewer: Simon Wiedemann
Becoming the Archetype are an American Christian metal band who released their sixth album, ‘Children of the Great Extinction’, on 26th August, 2022, through Solid State Records. It has been a good ten years since their last effort, ‘I Am’, and it’s their most ambitious project yet, filled with expert instrumentation and sci-fi themes. Guitarist and (clean) vocalist Seth explains that ‘thematically, it reflects the reality of our current humanitarian situation. Existential dread pervades our existence.’ The first single ‘The Lost Colony’ ‘introduces the whole system of the story… It’s got brutal moments, melodic moments, and a big shredding guitar solo.’
To start things off, perhaps with the most important issue, I’m sure these guys won’t be most people’s idea of Christian metal. By that I mean the death metal growls sound… evil. It makes little sense. To be fair, you sometimes get more modern sounding melodic vocals. Well I say modern, I’m kind of reminded of Fear Factory’s ‘Archetype’ album. Actually, it’s fairly old, now, I guess I don’t feel my age. Or act it. Other vocal deliveries (for example in ‘The Ruins’ and ‘The Sacrament’) strongly remind one of Opeth, which is very cool. The prog band have an amazing singer. The guitar solo of ‘The Lost Colony’ and the one in ‘The Calling’ will please Avenged Sevenfold fans for sure with their well thought ideas. If you don’t like the boring and cliched ideas you frequently get in improvised solos, but like your leads to be more like ‘mini songs’, you will love BtA’s lead style.
The riffs are arguably at their best when crazy rhythms are explored, for example in ‘The Remnant’ as the simpler ideas whist thick and powerful aren’t too memorable. I’m not saying the band should drop most of their style and become a Meshuggah clone, but maybe the hard to predict proggers could guide BtA in the right direction? In the track, filthy tones are contrasted with cleaner ones making the heavier sections seem heavier, but if that sounded simple to you, it’s because it is. It works, though. ‘The Calling’ has a surprisingly evil, goth sounding chord progression for a Christian band, if the growls weren’t enough. In it, sometimes you get massive power chords, other times you get dark pianos. I’m reminded of Cradle of Filth. Again, makes little sense when you think about it, but from a sonic perspective it sounds perfectly reasonable. The song also has some melodic death metal ideas in the style of later In Flames.
‘The Phantom Field’ fits in with MY view of Christianity with its thoughtful acoustic guitar harmonies. It’s something Jesus could listen to when having a ponder. Would he like the heavier material? I would like to think so, but I’d seriously doubt it. ‘The Awakening’ also has acoustic guitars, but this time they have a medieval feel. For better or for worse (worse for me at least) they’re gone pretty quickly and are replaced with more apparently holy filth of varying tempos. ‘The Hollow’ even has some Thin Lizzy styled dual guitar parts in it. I can see Jesus listening to Thin Lizzy, maybe ‘The Boys are Back in Town’. Just because you’re the son of God, doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time on occasion. It has a more melodic solo than the others, but it certainly has its flashy moments that are so clean they could make Paul Gilbert jealous!
Final track ‘The Sacrament’ is the longest on the album, lasting eight and a half minutes. It has some nice orchestral ideas, but as it’s the closing song, maybe they could have been expanded on. I was hoping for something truly epic and for a huge climax, but instead got a largely similar sound as before. As mentioned, you do get some Opeth style singing though, perhaps the most silky smooth in the whole of metal. Having said I wanted more of a climax, the end of the song has some spooky (in a good way) religious style singing in it (kind of like a Gregorian chant but with a slightly modernised delivery), giving the final impressions that the album is super thoughtful and at least SLIGHTLY holy.
In conclusion, I wanted more Meshuggah style ideas, but hey. You certainly get many styles in this album, but styles at their best? Not too often. The complex rhythms are done very well when you get them and the solos are hard if not impossible to fault, but are the majority of the riffs super memorable? I would say no, many are pretty cliched and slightly dull. The vocal melodies have their moments too, but again, many are fairly uninteresting. Some of the shouts are surprisingly angry. Just another Christian metal paradox. This is clearly a very adventurous album, but is it fun? Again, it could be more so. The album is recommended if you’re a more thoughtful metalhead, but not so much if you like more traditional death metal, for example.