Archspire / Beneath the Massacre / Vulvodynia

Cathouse, Glasgow on Wed 4th Dec 2019

Tonight this edition of the Tech Trek Through Europe tour comes to Glasgow, bringing out those who demand more in their death metal than slow, unexciting riffs (sorry, doom fans). Headliners Archspire were on the scene’s collective lips after the release of their 2017 album, ‘Relentless Mutation’ so this is one fans of death metal’s more brain-melting subgenre will not want to miss.  

Death metal-meets-deathcore gang Vulvodynia made the trek all the way from Durban, South Africa to be at the Cathouse for their first time in Scotland. Formed in 2014, they already have three albums to their gore-splattered name with ‘Mob Justice’ being released this year. The five-piece proceed to bludgeon the venue with spine-shattering slam death metal, effortlessly sparking a mosh pit in the crowd. The compositions are broadly simplistic, relying on chugging rhythms with the odd technical guitar flourish to pique attention.  Their stage presence is unrepentantly metal, commanding the stage with non-stop headbanging. While the music could accurately be described as slam-death-by-numbers, it doesn’t take away from the entertainment value and the band’s sincere appreciation to be trekking through Europe on a wide-spread tour.

Upping the levels of technicality is Montreal deathcore tribe Beneath the Massacre. These Canadians have built a reputation as one of the more musically sophisticated deathcore acts, alternating disorienting breakdowns with intricate time signature-defying riffs laid atop dominating blastbeats – provided by stand in drummer Patrice Hamelin of Gorguts. Vocalist Elliot Desgagnés growls proficiently and has the crowd comfortably eating out of his palms. Next year sees the band release their first full-length album in eight years, entitled Fearless. It has also been a long amount of time since they last toured and they don’t appear to be rusty as they hack through old and new material. The swirling technicality is the most fascinating feature of their show but it feels like the deathcore portion taints it. The deathcore proffers no surprises or creativity and jars poorly with the highly developed technical elements. Still their fans are supportive, digesting every note. Clearly, Beneath the Massacre have been missed.

The technicality metre rises to vertigo-inducing heights as headliners Archspire assume their position on stage. These Canadians are technical in every way – even the vocals. Vocalist Oli Peters is known on the internet as having the reputation for the fastest death metal vocalist. It’s incredibly impressive seeing him live, singing a word for every hit of the bass drum. Some may say death metal growls require no talent but Peters is certainly an argument for the contrary. Archspire begin their lesson in high ability musicianship with ‘Involuntary Doppelgänger’ from their most recent full-length ‘Relentless Mutation’ to a storm of applause, headbanging and moshing.

They’re a far cry from the mindless riff salad that clogs up the tech death metal subgenre and adorns it with its undeserved boring label. Their songs are thoughtfully arranged and bristling with variation. The title track of ‘Relentless Mutation’ begins with a modern prog rock style intro, using melodic guitar as a centrepiece. ‘A Dark Horizontal’ is aggressive but not brutal, unlike archetypal death metal. Drummer Spencer Prewett alternates between loud blastbeats and a slower but insistent pace. Guitarists Dean Lamb and Tobi Morelli play an ungodly number of notes per second, winding up and down their fretboard. In some ways, it’s comparable to later Cryptopsy but with more melody in favour of far less frenetic aggression. ‘Relentless Mutation’ material occupies almost all of the set but a few older tracks make the cut, including ‘Scream Feeling’ and ‘Rapid Elemental Dissolve’. This is such a tight and impressive show, Archspire are justifying their increased success in the tech death stratosphere live, not just on record. It’s very probable these Canucks haven’t even ascended to their pinnacle yet – not bad for the decade they’ve been active.

article by: Elena Francis

published: 10/12/2019 16:55


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