If you thought this progressive metal group had reached their peak under the tutelage of Devin Townsend, get ready to be shocked by an unproven producer and some of the greatest compositional minds in the country.
Christian progressive metal group Becoming the Archetype has consistently released high-quality music since their humble beginnings as Nonexistent Failure in the early part of the decade, and then as the Remnant for a further two years. They've benefited a great deal from the input of excellent producers on each of the three full-length albums following their final name change. With the help of Tue Madsen (Terminate Damnation), Andreas Magnusson (The Physics of Fire), and Devin Townsend (Dichotomy), each Becoming the Archetype album has been better than its predecessor, becoming more progressive and well-balanced in sound each time. It was understandable, therefore, that some people were confused and/or worried when the band announced Matt Goldman as producer for the group's fourth album. Better known for his work with post-hardcore groups such as Underoath, Four Letter Lie, Vanna, and Oceana, Goldman seemed to be an odd choice for the Georgia-based group, and some worried that it might be the first major misstep for Becoming the Archetype.
Such concern was unnecessary. Becoming the Archetype's fourth album, Celestial Completion, is every bit as impressive and incredible as its predecessors, and displays a great deal more complexity and progression than anything else the group has ever written. Many had thought the band had reached the limits of their experimentation with Townsend in the producer's chair, but Celestial Completion easily outranks Dichotomy in the area of strange but beautiful musical inclusions. A complex keyboard arrangement performed by guitarist Seth Hecox, blended with background sitars, is the highlight of "Elemental Wrath: Requiem Aeternam Part II". At the same time, the sudden cut to a ska-like trombone breakdown on "Cardiac Rebellion" seems completely out of place at first, but gradually becomes the most enjoyable part of the song. The fact that these sections sound tasteful and work within the song structures are as much a testament to Goldman's producer skills as they are to the band's songwriting ability.
The one element that has had many fans on edge, though, is the introduction of clean vocals into the band's repertoire. Clean vocals have only appeared with regularity on one previous Becoming the Archetype album, The Physics of Fire, and they were performed there by former guitarist Alex Kenis (who left the band in 2008 to re-join his old band Aletheian). All other instances of clean vocals in the band's past have been minor incidental inclusions or guest performances, such as the bridge by Demon Hunter singer Ryan Clark on the title track of Dichotomy. On Celestial Completion, lead singer Jason Wisdom sings cleanly at fairly regular intervals, as a supplement to his standard menacing roars and screams. The clean vocals were a source of contention from the moment that lead single "The Magnetic Sky" debuted, but over the course of the entire album, they add unprecedented depth to the band's sound. The leads sung by Wisdom, backed by gorgeous harmonies courtesy of Hecox and fellow axeman Daniel Gailey, are the linchpin to many songs on the album.
Becoming the Archetype are living up to and exceeding their fans' expectations of progression and uniqueness with Celestial Completion. For a band that is anticipated to stay outside the box, they have done a remarkable job of doing just that while also working to include more accessible elements in their sound. Their efforts to expand their audience have been successful in the past, and since Celestial Completion is so astoundingly good, it only stands to reason that Becoming the Archetype is on their way to gaining even more listeners in the very near future.