Armed For Apocalypse - Ritual Violence (Cover Artwork)

Armed For Apocalypse

Ritual Violence (2022)

Candlelight Records

Man, am I stupid. I think largely because of semantics and syntax, I thought Armed For Apocalypse were a deathcore band. You know, like Signs of the Swarm, or Fit for an Autopsy. So I had this record in the ol’ Inbox for a fair while before listening to it, like an idiot. But trying to be a good part-time journalist, I wanted to give (almost) everything a go, so slapped this record on a few days ago. And so began my journey into self-recrimination and re-education. For those who were as well-informed as me, Armed For Apocalypse are a sludge band (I guess?), but one who rely far less on the lower tempo than is typical of many bands in the genre. Also, the vocal approach is entirely borne of the more extreme elements of the genre. It’s almost a black metal shriek, but one that inexplicably manages to incorporate a variety of tones. It’s maybe not totally intelligible, but you can definitely pick out enough to inform you what the band are making this unholy din about.

Because these guys really do make a racket. A glorious one. There are cues taken from doom, from classic metal, from hardcore and from, I suppose, modern contemporaries. Were I to try and pinpoint those, it would likely be Conjurer, Throes and LLNN. It’s that thing. The scathing, grubby, excoriating heaviness. You know when someone has mixed concrete with a shovel, then left the wet concrete mixture on the shovel and it’s dried in the sun? Imagine if that shovel was then used to dig a shallow grave, in the rain, to bury a hastily terminated family pet after a Jeffrey Dahmer-style experiment. I’ll concede it’s an extraordinarily specific and unpleasant simile, but one that I know at least a few people reading this will understand. And for you folks? That’s what the sound of this record is. It’s grim, barely concealed malevolence. Moments of allowing the inner untamed darkness to peek through the curtain. And smile.

As gushing as I have been (and will continue to be) about this record, there are some shortfalls. The lack of range in the vocal does mean that it takes on the role of percussion as much as anything else at times. It also means that when the lyrics give way to purely anguished, tortured screams, the difference is marginal. Also, the moments where this record isn’t absolutely crushing are few and far between, which means the dynamism suffers maybe a little, which is a shame as clearly there is skill here in creating a more fragile atmosphere when the band try.

But that’s enough finding any critical fault. I love this record. It’s utterly horrible. It’s High on Fire rattling Lemmy-infused metal one minute (complete with absurd, seemingly improvised solos, such as in “Foredoomed”) and it’s doomy stoner the next (the swinging riff almost immediately after that solo), then moves to momentous, sledgehammer killers like “Frail” or “Flesh and Blood” (both c. two and a half minutes) without missing a beat. If someone pitched this album to me roughly how I’ve explained it here, I’d immediately assume it would be about an hour long. It’s not much over 40 minutes. When it comes to head-bang-per-minute satisfaction, you won’t find many better this year.