EP review: Archaeologist - Vol. II (remixed/remastered 2020)

Vol II cover.jpg

Vol. II

The EP Vol II by ARCHAEOLOGIST is a very interesting release as part of the progressive / death metal genre.

ARCHAEOLOGIST is a project born in 2013 in San Jose, and since then it has seen a steady evolution from a solo project by guitarist Kyle Schaefer to a full-fledged instrumental band in 2017 when the line-up was completed by Sean Johnson (guitar), Ryan Johnson (drums) and George Lallian (bass). The first release of this EP dates back to 2015, and is the result entirely of the work of guitarist / singer Kyle Schaefer both as regards the composition and the execution of the songs, even if it includes the guest musician Avi from THE RAVEN AUTARCHY (for a solo on Aggressor) and Steven Ostroske (vocals on Beyond the Edge.) Now this EP is re-presented after a great remixing / remastering job.

Compared to the single Winter’s Wake which I reviewed for ProgBlog in January 2020 which has some interesting jazz elements, this release is more clearly positioned within the more technical progressive / death / djent metal scene, with fewer excursions into other genres. While listening to it several of the best bands in the current djent scene came to my mind: the strongest comparison that I would make is with PERIPHERY and TESSERACT. Like both these bands, the technical level is remarkable and the structure of the pieces depends greatly on the guitar lines; the rhythmic component is often more melodic than that of PERIPHERY, but faster and more direct than that of TESSERACT. The singing is also more or less halfway between these groups: more frequently aggressive like that used by PERIPHERY but at times more melodic, approaching TESSERACT. There are also passages more explicitly related to death or black metal, which reminded me of both some of the first OPETH albums and some songs of IN FLAMES (I am referring in particular to the third song, Unforgiving Skies), while the choice of some riffs in unusual tones, especially in the second part of the EP, made me think of SPASTIK INK.

All the tracks are remarkably well constructed and have quite articulated and varied developments, with a few interesting style changes (I appreciated the balanced use of electronic elements especially in Beyond the Edge) and tempo. Generally the pace is very fast and the structure is very direct, with less space left for the overlap of many layers: this perhaps makes the songs less deep, but they gain in vitality.

Kyle Schaefer also proves on this occasion that he is a guitarist of considerable talent and skill, capable of tackling complex and articulated passages with confidence and precision, switching easily between different rhythms and styles. As a singer he plays his role competently, although perhaps it is more effective when he uses his voice in a more aggressive way while in the more melodic parts the technique is a bit lacking: however the result is more than valid considering the nature of the proposed songs.

From a production point of view, the level is very good: all the instruments, even the virtual ones, have a very natural rendering, the timbres are well cared for and there is a good spatial distribution of the sounds.

If I had to find a flaw in this EP it is that there is not a lot of experimentation or novelty, you hear hints of it in some passages but in the end the songs follow paths already beaten by other bands: this does not detract from the pleasure of listening and the songs are built with competence and already denote a remarkable compositional maturity.

Overall this is definitely a great release that can delight both fans of bands like PERIPHERY and fans of more technical death metal. I’m looking forward to see how the style of ARCHEAOLOGIST will further evolve after the promises of Winter’s Wake, seeing the growth since the first release of Vol II.