Archaic Decapitator - The Apothecary - (8.5/10)
Published on March 10, 2019
Following a couple of line-up changes since their previous release, Suffield Connecticut based death metal group Archaic Decapitator presents their upcoming EP “The Apothecary” coming on April 19th. Composed of four songs and a short intro, this is a compact release offering a high quality blend of technical and melodic death metal with pretty straightforward and catchy riffs as well as more progressive and unpredictable moments. The concept is definitely a surprising one, touching on, and I quote “what it may be like to be an empath and take on the troubles of others at the expense of one’s own vitality”. Certainly an intriguing theme that allows some unusual music.
For anyone that is into melodic death metal, this EP is a must, delivering all of the genre’s assets with an excellent quality. The riffs are very well thought out to not sound repetitive or too conventional while still having a capacity to draw you in and feel pretty accessible straight away. On the drums, the performance is also impressive, with blast beats and heavy, aggressive chops but also a lot of creativity invested in making the patterns fit into the melody and have a musical purpose. With a few clean guitars, a lot of guitar lead melodies and a pretty original use of keys/samples that sound pretty dynamic while also creating an atmosphere, they created a surprisingly emotional flavor to the sound. Bringing in some tremolo picking also allows them to touch the boundaries of black metal territory. There’s no neglecting the bass either as it comes to the fore-front in a few brief moments and always does a great job at giving some extra drive to the music. The production also has an important role bringing each instrument to its full potential and not allowing anything to get lost. It doesn’t sound too processed and allows for a slightly muddy and grinding sound but it is well balanced to keep the emphasis on the emotion of the music and properly deliver all elements. The vocal performance is probably the weakest link, slightly lacking in power and substance and feeling pretty stale throughout but it certainly doesn’t ruin the experience.
What makes this EP stand out though, is not the performance of the artists as much as the sense of purpose and the very well balanced compositional style, giving a natural flow to the music but also sprinkling a few surprise moments and unexpected twists that give more diversity without sounding unnatural or forced into the songs. The clean guitars with the more mellow bass taking the lead in “Diminishing Returns” and the “in your face” guitar leads from “Skward” are some of the stand-out moments of the record. But the best thing about “The Apothecary” are the guitar solos blending very advanced musicianship and technicality with sad and soulful melodies.
Overall the music feels a little philosophical and is delivered at a higher level of quality than most death metal. Benefiting of well executed production, the message, atmosphere and emotion come through very well allowing for an experience that offers energy and aggression while also leaving a lot of room for expression and making death metal more about creativity than it is about screaming, brutality and noise. It is really surprising and if you think you are in the very least tempted by this sub-genre or musical direction, you really shouldn’t hesitate to give this EP a few spins.