Arch Echo - You Won't Believe What Happens Next - (9/10)
Published on May 5, 2019
Genre:Progressive Metal / Djent / Fusion
In the world of progressive instrumental acts, following the trend set by Animals as Leaders, there is a lot of genuine quality and creativity but few bands actually separate themselves from the crowd. It’s a difficult genre to listen to with a very intellectual feel that doesn’t easily appeal to random metal heads. Nashville’s Arch Echo is a band that escaped the rat race (cover artwork pun intended) and they do this by ditching the rather pretentious attitude that often surrounds instrumental music especially when tapping into those intellectual jazz and avant-garde influences. They do it at the same level of quality but instead of giving you a musical physics lesson they actually make it fun. TONS of fun. Just take a look at the track list or the below video for their single “Immediate Results!” and you’ll figure out what I’m on about. So let’ buckle up and get ready for the refreshing and exciting ride that is their sophomore release “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next”.
This album has a strong side of djent especially in the riffs, yet it can’t be classified as full djent, as it merges together a much wider range of influences mainly in the aforementioned direction of jazz, fusion and bluesy tunes. If you ever heard the likes of Angel Vivaldi, Plini or Intervals, Arch Echo will be right up your alley. If you didn’t, give them a go and they might have you switch alleys in the not so distant future. To best describe how I feel about this band I’d have to say that if 5 MIT geeks somehow inexplicably attained instrumental super powers this is what they would sound like. There are two key elements that give AE’s music a very unique print. First off it’s the utterly jaw-dropping technical and creative skill of the band members but then comes the incredibly joyous and relaxing atmosphere of the music. This album simply oozes positivity from every note and is also dynamic, unpredictable and loaded with great solos, keyboard/guitar duels, fantastic rhythms all played at cartoonish speeds.
Let’s try to break down this jolly and jaunty controlled chaos a bit. The dual guitar work from Adam Rafowitz and Adam Bentley, puts out a constant parade of exuberant and complex riffs with tremendous jazz licks and shreds topping their performance. Of all prog guitarists that I know, the lead guitars probably go closest to Angel Vivaldi’s style, but have a more articulate chopped feel due to the groovy background that they depend on. This is where the beat maniac Ritchie Martinez comes into play with some of the most ballistic structures you could imagine. His drum style is as endurant and forward driving as what you would see in technical death metal but also as creative and surprising as what you would see in jazz drumming. They key word is GROOVE! And the hard hitting aspect of the toms and snare work reminded me of Anup Sastry’s massive progressive beats.
However, out of all 5 I have to pay my respects separately to Joey Izzo. The keyboard wizard has won me over since I first heard the band in 2017. I’m getting a lot of Dream Theater-esque leads from him, some late prog vibes in the vein of Haken’s Diego Tejeida and of course the playful happy coating surrounding all the instrumental sorcery. I’m also constantly hooked on the wide range of sounds that he uses, from retro style organ sounds to airy synths and bright and bubbly piano tunes. I blame this guy for taking the band’s sound to a new level of positivity.
Comparing the new album with 2017’s self-titled debut, not much has changed, but considering how refreshing their style is I believe having a single album written like this before switching gears would have been a bad idea and while I usually prefer that bands evolve and constantly change their recipe, I find myself hoping that they keep it on the same track for a few extra records. I actually could believe what happens next and whether you believe it or not I hope you like it as much as I did.