(Andy Synn reviews the new album by the multinational group Archivist, which was released near the end of February.)
Clocking in at a formidable sixty-eight minutes in length, Construct is the second album from Austrian/English/German collective Archivist, consisting of ten intricately composed tracks of audacious, atmosphere-drenched Post-Black/Post-Metal/Post-Rock proggery designed to infiltrate and stimulate both the body and the mind.
True, occasionally the band’s ambition slightly outstrips their execution, and the album as a whole doesn’t quite have the same sense of coherence as their self-titled debut, but the sheer scope of its sound, coupled with the band’s impressive ability to seamlessly transition between breathy, ethereal ambience and searing metallic catharsis, makes it one incredibly compelling listen all the same.
A concept album telling:
“a tale of traversing worm holes and 16th century astronomers, witch hunters and machine Gods”
Construct is at its best on tracks like the storming “Lamenting Configuration” – an elegant blend of gleaming, crystalline melodies and pulse-racing intensity with subtle interjections of proggy introspection — and the utterly glorious “Birth of Ire”, which together form an undeniably attention-grabbing opening pair.
By contrast, the eight-minute “Property?”, in spite of a few flashes of brilliance, feels padded out by a few too many meandering passages of Post-Rock navel-gazing, although thankfully both its immediate successors, “The Negotiation” and “Scorched Earth Policy” offer an altogether more concise and captivating (not to mention much more dynamic) experience, melding the melodic melancholy of early Alcest to a much more enigmatic, and darkly progressive, undercurrent.
The shimmering, proggy vibe of “The Reconstruction” is doubtless going to be a slightly divisive song, particularly during its first half, which eschews the metallic elements of the Archivist sound entirely in favour of a more Anathema-esque conglomeration of tender clean vocals and sombre, lilting guitar work, before igniting in much more incandescent, (post) blackened fashion for its sumptuous, multi-faceted finale.
Divisive or not, however, it does signify something of a shift in the album’s overall vibe, as the songs which follow it take on a much darker hue, from the moody, hypnotic strains of “Mysterium Cosmographicum” (where the contrast between clean and harsh vocals is played to perfection), to the raw emotion and righteous indignation which fuels the fantastic “Witch Finder”, eventually culminating in the mix of furious invective and solemn grandeur which underpins phenomenal closer “The Theosophical Digressions of Artificial Intelligence”.
In the end, despite its flaws (or, indeed, possibly because of them), this is one enviably intriguing and rewarding album. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste but, ultimately, I’d much rather take a chance on a band with the ambition, the passion, and the sheer cojones, to produce a beautiful, extravagant disaster than waste more of my time listening to yet another monolith of metallic mediocrity.
And Construct is by no means a disaster. It has its weaknesses, no doubt, but, in the grand scheme of things, these are far outweighed by its strengths.
So next time you’re in the mood for something a little bit different, something equal parts fascinating, frustrating, furious, and fulfilling, then give this one a try.