- The Ocean Walker
- The Time Bender
- The Eyes of the Storm
- The Sky Bearer
- The Machine Killer
- The War Ender
- The Weapon Breaker
- The Planet Maker
- The Sun Eater
- I Am
I have always had a massive respect for Becoming The Archetype. Their albums, EPs, and singles have always delivered high-quality progressive metal—metal that not only covers many corners of the musical spectrum, but also manages to maintain their own original sound. They build upwards and outwards, never releasing the same thing twice and never boring their listeners. The same goes for their newest work, I Am. This album, like all of BTA’s work, loosely builds on their past releases, but still stands alone as an individual monument to the band’s name.
Despite their recent member changes (including the loss of Brent Duckett and front man, Jason Wisdom), BTA has quickly regrouped with three new recruits and returned rejuvenated and ready to rock. Codey Watkins is the new man kicking it on bass, Chris Heaton is on drums, and Chris McCane stomps to the microphone to replace Wisdom’s lion-like roars. Both providing additional vocals, lead guitarist Daniel Gailey returns from his debut on Celestial Completion, and original member Seth Heccox is still taking names on rhythm guitar and keys. Together, all of these guys have created a new album and, basically, a new band.
Lyrically, this release is the dictionary definition of epic. Bringing an archaic and mythological atmosphere to the concept of God, I Am is a concept album told from the first-person perspective of one character. The album title is, in one sense, reflective of the spiritual aspect of the band’s message (“I Am” serving as a prefix to the track names and referring to God’s name in Exodus 3), but also, in another sense, rebranding the BTA name (the cover claiming that “I Am Becoming The Archetype”). The album artwork itself depicts this concept of identity through a grungy portrait of Clifton, the BTA mascot.
…But on to the music.
The 37 minute narrative opens with “The Ocean Walker,” one of the more progressive tracks that fluctuates in speed and tone, and uses a bleak and watery atmosphere that was introduced in Celestial Completion. It’s through a number of similar resources that many of the songs reflect their title’s theme. “The Time Bender,” for instance, uses more vocal distortions, frenzied guitar solos, complicated riffs, and a technicality that we haven’t seen since the band’s single, “Necrotizing Fasciitis”—all of which takes the listener on a chaotic and colorful journey through what feels like a well-oiled time machine. Likewise, “The Eyes of the Storm” is a whirlwind of riffs, breakdowns and tolling bells; “The Sky Bearer” has a melancholic and airy ambiance; “The War Ender” begins with a vicious energy and ends abruptly; and “The Planet Maker” uses the spacey sounds of Dichotomy, occasionally hitting earth with some dirty riffs before riding the clean vocals and guitar solos back into the stars. Every track is a well-crafted journey that tells its own story before steering to the next song, eventually leading the listener to the finale, “I Am” (the album’s concluding masterpiece).
As far as negativity goes, long-time listeners will no doubt call attention to the band’s use of “metalcore” breakdowns. Breakdowns are nothing new for BTA, but in past releases they were usually shoved in the background and masked by the rest of the music. On I Am, they’re louder and given more solo time; however, there’s no mindless chugging here. Like a kid getting cake after eating all his vegetables, BTA earns their breakdowns by building the tension with insanely technical guitar solos, rock-solid riffs, emotionally-wrought vocals, and memorable melodies. Basically, when the breakdowns arrive, you’ll be charged up and ready to headbang along.
Personally, the only thing I dislike about this album is “The Machine Killer.” With instrumentals under BTA’s belt like “Night’s Sorrow,” “Nocturne,” “St. Anne’s Lullaby,” and “Music of the Spheres,” this song comes as a big disappointment. The mellow keys and electronics are reminiscent of the Celestial Progression EP, but, after a few listens, it grows dull and begs to be skipped. Without it, this album would be a perfect 5.
Overall: From the second I Am starts spinning, it’s easy to see that Becoming The Archetype’s new lineup hasn’t hurt them at all; if anything, it’s introduced a new energy, a new hunger, and a new set of teeth to continue chomping at the modern-metal machine. There’s not much experimentation in this release, but that in and of itself is experimental for a band like BTA. To put it simply, this album is solid metal: full of skull-crushing riffs, technical guitar solos, innovative lyrics, and well-warranted breakdowns. The most progressive thing about I Am is how it wages war within the perimeters of death metal and metalcore without sinking to deathcore (all while keeping up that BTA vibe that everyone is familiar with). This entertaining album will doubtlessly attract a hoard of new fans, but it should also suit the old fans when they get an earful of the heavy complexity that pulses through I Am. This is some of the best metal I’ve heard all year.
RIYL: A Hill To Die Upon, Aletheian, As I Lay Dying, As They Sleep, Between The Buried And Me, Dream Theater, Extol, Hope For The Dying, Living Sacrifice, Pantokrator, Soul Embraced, The Burial, The Famine, The Showdown, Wretched, 7 Horns 7 Eyes