Interview By Carrie Gibson
A romantic lead up
It has been a romantic year for Canadian tech death outfit Archspire. As well as wrapping up their first European festival run—which included monoliths Brutal Assault, Metal Days, and Summer Breeze—there was the betrothal of guitarist Toby Morelli. As I chat with vocalist Oli Peters, I soon learn he, too, is set to exchange nuptials here in Australia next month.
I drop one idea about a Ozzy bachelor party and I’m stopped mid-sentence:
“I’m not doing a shoey!” Oli exclaims. ”My high tops get pretty gross.”
That firmly established, let’s get ourselves caught up on Archspire ahead of their Canberra show, shall we?
Their latest release, 2021’s Bleed the Future, is inordinately engrained in fan’s minds by now, having made the rounds for close to two years. Described as the “third tier” of the band’s progression, it is an album that propelled the band toward a platform Oli declares as “full recognition”, Archspire have slowly been clawing their way up with each release.
And for the genre in which they operate, this is a perilous climb.
Divisive high standards
Technical death metal is held to a high standard; arguably the highest. The skill, creativity and ability needed to meticulously weave together something so elaborate with proficiency and near godly dexterity—with perfection expected, if not outright demanded— is one of the reasons the genre is held in such high esteem.
It is also divisive.
Great risks are often enmeshed when a band wish to expand or experiment with their sound. In the early days, Archspire were unyielding when it came to their material, making the music as extreme as possible. As the band evolved, however, they have learnt to be more tasteful and reserved when writing.
“Bleed the Future had a purpose; refinement and accessibility to fans,” Oli tells. “We incorporated a weird writing process. Everything was built from the ground up. It’s very filtered, and any potential a riff has been vested in and explored as a collective.
“It takes an exhaustive amount of time, yet it’s the only way we will do it”.
Included in their writing process is a great deal of introspect and learning.
“The speed is the first avenue we go down,” Oli says. “As the vocalist, I am probably the most limited as far as speed goes, in terms of all the instruments. So I’m always trying to figure out how to write smarter so I can execute the lyrics faster: deliberately avoiding certain syllables to get that fluidity, observing rap artists and how they use their mouths to convey words faster.”
This required further delving. With such a pragmatic method developed and executed for the purpose of increased speed, how exactly has this evolved the vocals over the course of Oli’s time?
“There is definitive progress and development there, but I’m never happy with how I sound at a live show,” the self-critical Oli scoffs. “I’m still refining the technique. With every tour, every show, I’ll look back and observe: ‘Oh, I lost my tone there’, ‘I sucked there’.
“With that, though, it’s a very fine line,” he continues. “Some artists are hyperfocused on their vocal performance and don’t enjoy their stage time. So it’s important to strike a balance between constructive criticism and taking something out of each show.
“I’m still learning.”
A sweet spot
Oli, convinced that Archspire are still considered that obscure band that people stumble across, finds that wherever they play, there are people experiencing the band for the first time.
“It’s a cool spot for us to be in; we can only go up from here!” This is where Archspire thrive, invariably amassing new fans as they go, which is an exciting prospect, Oli declares. “It’s the sweet spot. There are still loads of surprises. We still have fun on stage, just thrilled to be there. We’re just like little kids.”
With time comes perfection
Bleed the Future was given more pre-production than previous albums, a luxury afforded by COVID. And wanting the material to be heavily massaged by Producer Dave Otero, a tangible and superbly polished product was well and truly ready by the time the band headed into the studio in Denver. It’s an avenue all bands should take, according to Oli, “for the sheer amount of time and money it saves”, allowing the band and producers to smooth over all the nuances.
With time, though, comes perfection, and perfection can be addictive. As mentioned, the precision, clarity, and fidelity required to construct and compose decent and distinguishable technical death metal can be formidable.
“I would consider ourselves perfectionists,” Oli admits. “We have to be. Our goal each time we play is to replicate the music as close to the album as we can, aiming for the same tempo, the same speed, keeping with the same complex rhythmic structures.
“I mean, that is the product we want to get out to everyone – the live show.”
Listening to technical death metal is captivating. Seeing it live, though? This is where awe is created, where the jaws drop; this is the judgement point, where artists are despised or lionised.
Archspire’s Tech Trek Australia tour stops by The Basement on Thursday, 12 October, where they will be joined by Ingested and Werewolves. Tix are $75 via Oztix.