Frontman Jason Wisdom reveals how time and circumstance brought the core of BtA together in a successful attempt to recapture lightning in a bottle.
Regarded as a shining prospect among the new wave of American Heavy Metal that anchored the 2000’s era, Atlanta aggressors Becoming the Archetype started their ascent ahead of the grade.
Spanning some four full length albums, the band’s meld of tech, death, and progressive metal earned the cosign of producers like Devin Townsend and Matt Goldman (Underoath, The Chariot), both of which subscribed to the notion that BtA was glimpse of the future of heavy music.
In 2011, the band delivered what was regarded as their most progressive effort to date with the arrival of Celestial Completion. Complete with worldly instrumentation like Tablas, tamburas, sitars, and even a brassed out ska section on a metal record, it was clear that Becoming the Archetype didn’t fit into any particular category and functioned at their best without restrictions.
Yet while the band was continuing to make creative strides, life happened. Shortly after the release of Celestial Completion, the band’s frontman Jason Wisdom and drummer Brent “Duck” Duckett, found the rigors of the band too much to balance with their personal lives and opted to step down. More about necessity than anything else, the split left no feelings of animosity or contention, however it ultimately derailed a band that was still very much in it’s prime. While the remaining members in Seth Hecox and guitarist Daniel Gailey (who would go onto join Phinehas and Fit For A King) gave a valiant effort to soldier on, Becoming the Archetype never caught the same fire it had when the core was intact.
During the decade away from the spotlight, the trio of Jason Wisdom, Duck and Seth managed to stay in contact. Given the split in the band was amicable, there was always a sense of ‘what if’ that seemed to follow the individual members – even as they explored other creative avenues, particularly with Wisdom as he dove into his own passion projects like Death Therapy and Solamors.
As circumstance would have it, a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic would function as the catalyst for pushing the trio in the same creative direction once more. More seasoned and personally settled, Wisdom, Hecox and Duck had less reason to be hesitant about getting back to the business of Becoming the Archetype, even if it was a decade removed from their salad days.
The band’s frontman Jason Wisdom weighed in on what it was like to start those very first steps of reconvening after so many years. He explained how the ever-changing landscape of heavy music had no bearing on a band that always colored outside the lines, and shared that the long layoff ended less out of nostalgia, but rather in pursuit of making the perfect Becoming the Archetype record.
What was the impetus for reactivating the band? Everyone has obviously been active in other projects – what was it about Becoming the Archetype that scratched the itch other avenues couldn’t.
Wisdom – Seth had been bugging me about writing new music for years. And I know Duck was just anxious to be drumming again. So I guess I was the one holding things back. I was always either too busy or too intimidated by the idea of “doing it right.” I felt like we either needed to make a “perfect” album, or leave the idea alone–and that seemed more or less impossible. Then 2020 happened. I found myself unemployed (off and on) for more than a year. So I totally immersed myself in the task of creating a new Becoming the Archetype album. The result is “The Children of the Great Extinction.” I believe it lives up to the BTA legacy, and is our most epic album to date.
You mentioned how the baseline criteria was less about making new music and more about tapping into the ethos of BtA. Do you remember the moment you realized you had found that?
Wisdom – With the other music I’ve created in the last decade–3.5 albums with my other band Death Therapy–the creative floodgates felt wide open. I could do anything I wanted, and nobody could say “this isn’t what I want from this band.” But BTA is an established thing. There are people who have almost two decades of built up nostalgia just waiting to crash down like an avalanche on any new material that fails to meet their expectations. The trouble is that we don’t know how to write music for other people. Part of the “BTA ethos” is that we refuse to put ourselves into a box. So, in the end, we just agreed to make the album that we wanted to hear–something heavy, melodic, epic, intricate, brutal, and dynamic. That’s the baseline of what we have always been striving for, because that’s the kind of music we all love. That is the only way to make a true BTA album.
Given how quickly the culture and sound of heavy music continues to evolve, a decade is a lifetime. Did you find yourself appreciating the kind of timelessness of the band’s sound and how it still translates as relevant?
Wisdom – A blessing and a curse of Becoming the Archetype’s legacy is that we never followed any of the current trends. When breakdowns were all the rage, we wrote albums without any. When deathcore became the thing, we experimented with writing bright, major sounding progressions, and added a ska section to a song. The blessing is that it keeps our albums from sounding clearly “from that time period.” The curse is that we never really got to be part of the “cool kids” crowd.
Plenty of bands talk about how they make music for themselves and how they steer clear of the expectations of fans… you guys readily admit to weighing the expectations of fans with the new music. Did you find it tough to balance how you have evolved as songwriters with the sound you established more than a decade ago?
Wisdom – We are very cognizant of the “weight” of fan expectations. It’s unavoidable for a band that’s been gone for a decade. But when it actually comes down to writing music, we know that we just have to let go of all that. In a way, the Becoming the Archetype model of writing music is more like a “choose your own adventure” story where we never quite know where things are going until it’s over. So, when the process is all finished, we find ourselves almost discovering what we have created. We are the first fans to experience it.
Children of the Great Extinction has an especially ominous ring to it. The album seems to emphasize themes like our own mortality and the kind of real life horrors that are all too evident – especially as of late. However, you mentioned the notion of redemption and salvation. Is this record more about finding hope or coping with the horror?
Wisdom – This is the first, and only Becoming the Archetype album that is a true concept album. From song 1 to song 10, all of the lyrics tell one narrative story. I really wanted to pack a lot of concepts in and challenge people to wrestle with the characters and themes. Without giving too much away, I will say that it is definitely a story about human frailty, real life monsters, and the redemption that comes from sacrifice for those who are different than yourself.
Though it sounds like everyone remained pretty connected, chemistry can be fleeting among band members. What was it like making music again? Was there a learning curve to get adjusted to?
Wisdom – We are fortunate that we never lost touch with one another, and there was never any strife between us. When Duck and I left the band, it was out of necessity, not because of animosity. And when the band went on hiatus, I think it was largely for the same reason. We used to fight a lot when we wrote music together. Devin Townsend called us out when we were working with him for being terribly “passive aggressive.” A decade later, I think we have all matured, and that made the creative process a lot less confrontational. I won’t say that it was totally without any head-butting, but it was surprisingly smooth. We all like the same sort of music, and that hasn’t changed at all in the last decade, so the “chemistry” was never an issue
In terms of career accomplishments – how does your sixth album stack up? Are you ok with the nostalgia of a comeback record or does this resonate as more of the next iteration of the band – Becoming the Archetype 2.0?
Wisdom – We knew that it was going to be received primarily with nostalgia as a “comeback” album. But we focused on writing the absolute best metal record we could possibly create. Personally, I believe it can stand up against the top bands/albums in the industry today. If someone loves Gojira, Mastodon, Between the Buried and Me, Opeth etc.. this record should be able to live on the same shelf. The goal was to create something that feels current for 2022, but also feels like it picks up right where we left off a decade ago. I think it does that, and more.
Children of the Great Extinction on Solid State Records on August 26. Pre-order it here.