I have no idea what my reputation is ’round these parts, but I’ll acknowledge that I may be a bit generous in my reviews, in part because I’m choosy about what I want to cover (like Moms and Jif), but mostly because I’d rather try to find the good in a piece of art. It’s no fun spending what little time we have on this floating non-round planet seeking out ways to rip into bad art. Why not focus on finding the good stuff and alerting others about it? So with that said, I want to state the following:
Arch Echo have released the best instrumental progressive metal album of the past few years. This should go down as one of the classics of the style, in large part because it marries three different major sub-styles together to create a dazzling fusion. The group, formed while attending the famous Berklee College of Music (Dream Theater, St. Vincent, among many others), have created a style of instrumental prog metal that recalls the classics (Steve Vai, Dream Theater) in sheer speed and general wankery (in a good way), mixed in with riff-based djent (Animals As Leaders, Periphery), along with the more hip-shaking, jazzy style that’s been popular of late (Polyphia, Plini). What does all this mean? It sounds like this is a very busy record, and that’s certainly true; however, nothing feels wasted. The sheer density of the melodies and riffs is staggering, and the fact that this never gets tedious or boring over nearly 50 minutes is a serious accomplishment. Oh, and the use of keyboards is actually really well done throughout, which was always an issue I had with Dream Theater (I know I’m in the minority there).
The dynamics and songwriting ability is fantastic, as they clearly know when to dial back and ease you into bursts of sheer, glorious madness. Arch Echo were a relative unknown to me not that long ago, but this young collective have written a potential classic in their first outing. I can’t wait to hear where they go next.