BECOMING THE ARCHETYPE – Children of the Great Extinction

BECOMING THE ARCHETYPE – Children of the Great Extinction



The Georgian Christian progressive metallers Becoming the Archetype (BtA) may be very well known to Christians who love metal but I suspect they are virtually unknown in the greater heavy metal community, possibly due to Christian lyrics most people who aren’t Christians have no interest in reading much less singing along to (which is how I feel about expressly Satanic lyrics and bands, so I feel you). But if I’m right, I feel people are missing out because the first three albums: Terminate Damnation²⁰⁰⁵, The Physics of Fire²⁰⁰⁷ and Dichotomy²⁰⁰⁸ can rightly be put on the same shelf with the first eight Opeth albums (lovingly commonly referred to as old Opeth) or Enslaved records from Below the Lights²⁰⁰⁷ to Heimdal²⁰²³, as BtA, too, blurs that line between progressive thrash, death and black metal whereby you’re forced to just call it progressive metal and leave the listener wondering what is meant by progression, as, as we all know, no two progressive metal albums are alike, sometimes even from the same band. More precisely concerning BtA, they blur the lines between progressive death, melodic death, metalcore, and technical metal, so, I should say if you take out the metalcore, what remains is closely in progressive, creative and, most importantly, memorable substance akin to old Opeth and contemporary Enslaved. True, they had later pushed that metalcore vibe a lot stronger on the next two releases but, back in 2022, they then released Children of the Great Extinction²⁰²² which hearkened back to their classic sound while honoring the highlights of the latter albums for their most balanced effort to date. And now is a great time to revisit it as Solid State Records released limited coloured vinyl edition last year on August 26th (and thus the year of the release 2023 in this review).

Becoming the Archetype, named so after Jesus Christ as the Archetype of a human being who, according to the Bible, all people should aspire to becoming in order to please their Creator God (smartly expressed through the album I Am²⁰¹², where the title is followed by the band’s name to read: I am Becoming the Archetype), was formed by Nonexistent Failure (1999-2003) and The Remnant (2003-2004) members: Jason Wisdom (presently bass, lead vocals, songwriting), Jon Star (guitars-2006; 2008-2010), Sean Cunningham (guitars-2006), Brent Duckett (presently drums, songwriting) and “Count” Seth Andrew Hecox (presently guitars, keyboards, clean vocals, songwriting) for the already fantastic debut Terminate Damnation²⁰⁰⁵ but has undergone lineup changes through the equally engaging The Physics of Fire²⁰⁰⁷ (losing Star but gaining Aletheian’s Alex Kenis) and Dichotomy²⁰⁰⁸ (losing Kenis for Star) as well as the just good but more chaotic and a bit unfocused Celestial Completion²⁰¹¹ (losing Star for good but gaining Daniel Gailey). Then, after Celestial Completion²⁰¹¹ Duckett and Gailey had been left by the departing Wisdom and Hecox but nevertheless they had proceeded to record the more superior I Am²⁰¹² (wisely greatly altering the logo on the cover) with co-opted Chris McCane (vocals), Cody Watkins (bass) and Chris Heaton (drums), all three of the auxiliary members and Gailey leaving permanently subsequent the recording, with Brent Duckett the sole survivor. BtA, then, went on a long hiatus stemming from years of unstable lineups, from August 2013 until June 2022, followed by Wisdom, Hecox and Duckett reuniting for, this here, Children of the Great Extinction²⁰²².

What hits me right away from the first contact is that the lyrics have changed. Well, while they are no longer just expressly Christian and Christ extolling as they once were, the concept of the lost civilization is so replete with references to – “the Chosen Twelve” (The Lost Colony), “traitor Judas” (The Calling), humanity “lost within our own flesh” (The Dead World), the corruption “not from without but from within”, the “angel of death keeping us alive” (The Curse), interestingly possibly hinting at what Machine Head’s Robb Flynn had already in 1994 on “Old” that “the church has failed” (howbeit inevitably joining the world governments) but now “we” are “the ones to reclaim the truth and take a leap again”with “The Calling” for reality bending itself around you by conviction and not by sight as if to reference “The Matrix”, while delivering the album’s catchiest chorus to match the lyrical indictment of this world as “hollow, filled with selfish hollow creatures conceived in sorrow, captive to their fragile features” (The Hollow), with He descended like fire from the heavens, like a bolt of lightning from the sky…Bringer of hope Giver of life” (both adjectives starting with capital letters), and, finally, with the “ancient writing plainly” saying “death is swallowed up in death, its sting is lost forever” clearly referencing 1 Corinthians 15:54 – all point out to the Bible and its message of salvation through Jesus Christ as the only way in the world hopelessly doomed to extinction. This shows that BtA members are smart, choosing a story everyone, believing or not, can relate to, to showcase the need for a Savior, rather than just writing plain Christian lyrics wrapped in heavy metal music, which reminds me of Apostle Paul who famously wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (NIV), which is one of my life’s mottos.

Whether or not the lyrics will appeal to metalheads at large, the music is actually the part that makes it their most accessible album to date without giving up their inherent extreme nature. After all, Jesus Christ could and did get angry betimes and then his behavior could have been taken as extreme by many. I love the Nate Washburn production which emphasizes the crunchy but heavy guitars which remind me of the best Fear Factory or Scar Symmetry albums, but, probably the most of the Jason Suecof’s (Trivium) and Coyle Brothers’ masterpiece IV : Constitution of Treason²⁰⁰⁵ by the dearly missed and recently thankfully reunited stalwarts God Forbid (especially “The Ruins” has that title track groove) one of my all time favorite records that seems to have influenced so much modern metal these days I name drop it and often in my reviews, but that particular influence already showed through I Am²⁰¹², just as much as the (good) Killswitch Engage stylings (“The Ruins” opening hardcore shout recalling Howard Jones in “Wasted Sacrifice”) as BtA has always been driven by metalcore to various extents. What’s novel is Revocation influence, especially recent, to the point that if you close your eyes while forgetting whose album is playing the heavily deathcorish “The Curse”, you could swear you hear David Davidson both play and sing, but I’m not really bothered much by the similarity since I love Revocation. The two bands share fantastic musicianship and songwriting abilities, that latter aspect so lacking in BtA since after Dichotomy²⁰⁰⁸, now as if it were a phoenix arisen from the ashes.

What I mean is that BtA had always merged the creative with the hooks until Celestial Completion²⁰¹¹ where the first couple of tracks just pass you by until it gets interesting, a peccadillo I Am²⁰¹² fixed on side A but recomitted on side B, resulting in both efforts being half-cooked from the opposite ends, respectively. Here, on Children of the Great Damnation²⁰²², BtA created some of their most memorable songs, 3 of which out of 10 I consider perfections: “The Remnant” – with its gentle yet powerful melodic chorus that won’t leave your head for days which reminds me of As I Lay Dying work on Powerless Rise²⁰¹⁰, “The Hollow” – sporting the best chorus (I dare you not to sing along!) Fear Factory hasn’t written since Obsolete¹⁹⁹⁸ – and one of the most creative and best songs BtA has ever written, the over 8 minute closer “The Sacrament” – with its reprise of the opening “The Dead World” and beautiful operatic and Gregorian chants for people who don’t care much for Gregorian chants. Everything is tight, constantly changing and engaging while truly no track is another’s brother, cousin maybe. To the power of this record speaks also the technical slightly djenty riffage evocative of Meshuggah, powerful “story solos” that reach classic Alex Skolnick (Testament) highs (The Curse), complexity of arrangements and variety evocative of those Pink Floydian mosaics Between the Buried and Me, majestic downright black (or white) metal track openings a’la classic Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir and, finally, that southern Lamb of Godly groove (The Calling) but, you know, let’s remember these are Southerners, too.

So with all these accolades why only 5? Well, the first couple of tracks, while good, do not strike me as hard as what comes next and, in that respect, side A is inferior (5)to B (5.4), some of the best material consistently on that side with only “The Awakening” – with its gloomy atmospherics and a citar melody and a clearly Middle Eastern flair and rhythm, appearing somewhat anticlimactic if not breaking the momentum, but, then again, it may have been the intended point by the Archetypes.

Children of the Great Extinction²⁰²² tries hard but ultimately fails to fully recapture the brilliance of the legendary first three records while it towers above its two predecessors. Let’s keep it mind, though, that this is a big step in the right direction and the band appears to be cohesive and motivated to make more music in its classic lineup which gave us their best records and the reunification albums are seldom spectacular while often followed by masterpieces. Here’s to hoping that your next record will join Terminate Damnation²⁰⁰⁵, The Physics of Fire²⁰⁰⁷ and Dichotomy²⁰⁰⁸ as your fourth masterpiece, indeed. Meanwhile, maranatha, brothers!

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