Label: Throatruiner Records/No Rest Until Ruin
Release Date: 27/04/2018
Genre: Hardcore Punk
Let me take you back to about six weeks ago. I’m in conversation with my editor, and out of the blue she asks if I’d ever heard of Detroit hardcore punks The Armed before. Admittedly, I said no.
So off I went, straight to 2015’s Untitled. What I walked into was a band that encompass blackened hardcore with schizophrenic levels of delivery, atrocious amounts of experimentation and a soundscape equivalent to a bin full of glass being thrown off a 20 story building. Fuck me; it was like love at first sight.
‘Do you fancy reviewing their new album?’ she asks.
So here we are, with the band’s third album Only Love. Having less than 2000 recorded monthly listeners on Spotify, The Armed may be one of US hardcore’s best kept secrets.
To picture how Only Love opens, my best advice is to imagine an 8-bit sound sample lead by blast beats and contrasting vocals that flip between frantic screaming and laid back, cleanly delivered hooks, somewhat reminiscent of Josh Homme having a stroke. Bravo if you can envision this, because that’s how opening song ‘Witness’ kicks the record off. It’s a neurotic vortex, a sea of noise that’s instantaneously tough to digest. But for the love of music, stick with it.
What I loved dearly about mathcore giants The Dillinger Escape Plan, was their ability to craft straight up pop songs and perfectly plonk them in the middle of their records. I’m overwhelmed with the same warm, fuzzy feeling with The Armed as ‘Nowhere To Be Found’ tumbles in. Quirky and colourful noise wiggles into your ears, only to be quickly swept away and cloaked by a whirlwind of chaos.
The additional vocals on ‘Parody Warning’ and ‘Fortune Daughter’ are featured in a flash, and then gone in an instant. ‘I see you, I know your name, I love you!’ whips in as one of the biggest vocal hooks of the entire record that enters like a K-Pop Japanese anthem stripped down with a hardcore filter. ‘Luxury Themes’ opens with ethereal landscapes straight from the book of Rolo Tomassi, only to be replaced with electronic synths and frantic drumming, as if you’re in a boss fight on a 90’s arcade game.
This is the gluing point of Only Love. There are so many layers, but not every one of them comes from a visceral and aggressive source. The ever switching variants of vocal delivery, the stabbing guitar work and electronic sampling provide legitimate ear worms from the get go. It’s a work of trickery that just loves to keep you guessing as ‘Middle Homes’ strides in. Like a laid back nod towards Queens of the Stone Age, this is one of the nastiest bands in the game trying their hand at anthemic desert rock, and they don’t give a shit if you care.
7 minute closer ‘On Jupiter’ is beautifully ambient and anthemic in it’s start, but soon bursts into life with polyrhythmic drumming that shook my ears to the point where on first listen I had to remove my headphones. For the first time in years I had a pit in my stomach at something so ridiculously obtrusive that it was too tough to take in, and it felt bloody marvellous.
Only Love needs your time to understand its creases, to familiarise yourself with its twists and turns, which is a perk most hardcore bands fail to boast. If spray gunning Anaal Nathrakh and The Chariot with pop synths, electronica and contemporary rock sounds like your thing. Then you’re welcome, The Armed are your new favourite band.
This is what feels special about Only Love, this is why I smile as I type this. It incohesively throws everything at the wall, yet glues itself together with such colour and passion. It feels endless, yet ends in an instant. Beautiful but ugly, Only Love feels vital.
I’ll be real here, I’ve only given one 10/10 review in over two years, and despite my difficulties in explaining the sound The Armed have crafted, it’s an absolutely remarkable record that I can’t stop revisiting. It’s an experiment that neither The Armed nor their hardcore peers may ever come close to topping for years to come. It’s a cosmos of ideas, a spectrum of brilliance, and I demand you give this your attention.
Recommended Tracks: Parody Warning, Luxury Themes, Middle Homes