Ten years ago, metal fans were given what some would consider a slightly disappointing final album from Becoming the Archetype. While I find it rather enjoyable, personally, I do understand the case that is to be made against the album. I Am featured a very different line-up, which came with a major change to the core songwriting, and it left most of the band's followers feeling a little underwhelmed. But let's put that behind us, because it's the future - anything can happen, including Jason Wisdom taking the helm once again, which is the case for BTA's comeback album, Children of the Great Extinction.
As you may or may not have guessed by the slightly apocalyptic title, this is indeed a full-on concept album. Like The Chronicles of Narnia or the various writings about Middle Earth, Children of the Great Extinction mirrors the Christian doctrines of creation, the fall, and redemption, but set in a fantasy world with a somewhat different lore. Now, it's only about 50 minutes long, so there's not as much world-building as the aforementioned classics, but the storytelling is straight-to-the-point and pretty easy to follow, with each trio of songs making up a different chapter of the story (as well as the closing track, which is its own chapter).
"The Dead World" begins with some deities, called the ancients, discovering a planet which was "nothing but a wasteland / a roiling sea, chaos and entropy / uninhabited, uninhabitable / no sign of life / a million miles away from home / no light to guide, transplanting the seeds of hope." The album echoes the consistent failures of the Israelites in "The Remnant," the coming of Christ in "The Calling," and salvation and the great commission in the epic closer, "The Sacrament" (as made evident by the shouts of "Go and reclaim the planet!"). The style of lyricism rides the line between fragmented death metal prose and fairytale novel, which works quite well, despite how that sounds. "The Ruins" makes for a great example, which describes the savior character on his quest to rescue some lost souls: "Apprehended by monstrous forms / skin like feathers caked in mud / nebulous speech, outstretched arms / protruding veins dripping blood / sail across the blackened sea / to the village of the living things / hollow eyes transfixed on me / the silence deafening / standing in the ruins, a world forsaken / the empty faces of hollow creatures / longing to awaken." BTA clearly wanted to make it both a narrative and a dang metal album and succeeded.
On that note, if you're not intending to dive into the lyrics and just want to enjoy some great metal music, then you're still in luck, because Children of the Great Extinction delivers in spades. It's classic BTA all the way through - fast and heavy at its core, slow and thoughtful when it needs to be, and even soft and gentle on occasion. "The Phantom Field" is the signature, pretty interlude that the band excels at. It feeds directly into "The Awakening," which opens with what I believe is a guzheng, and it sounds lovely. But then of course we have pummeling tracks like "The Lost Colony" and the Extol-esque "The Calling" that blend the best of metalcore, prog metal, symphonic metal, and death metal (and how good is that guitar solo in "The Calling," right?). It's the sort of thing that feels pretty foreign for modern-day Solid State Records, but it's certainly welcome.
The most cliche thing I could say is that these guys haven't lost a step. But cliche or not, it's the truth. Granted, the individual members haven't been absent from the music world (most notably, Wisdom's Death Therapy project), but it's still a highly impressive album for a trio of guys who haven't played together since 2011's Celestial Completion. There's always a bit of hopeful reservation when a beloved band reunites for new music, but thankfully, Children of the Great Extinction does not disappoint. And now that I'm finished doing a remarkably poor job of describing it, it's time to go and give it a listen and enjoy what is hopefully the beginning of another run for Becoming the Archetype.- Review date: 8/23/22, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Solid State Records
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