Review Summary: They really aren't that different after all...
Back in 2008 when I first discovered Bulletproof Messenger by means of a few songs on their debut LP, I found their music to be marked by powerful vocal performances over heavy riffs and great atmosphere. I found the Tom Morello-influenced scratch solos and the presence of a DJ to be the one thing that really set them apart from every other mainstream directed hard rock band that I had been listening to at the time. In fact, if I had found the band’s second effort around this time, I would probably consider it a classic. Since then, however, my ears have been attuned to different styles of music, and it is now much easier to see the faults of Arm Yourself
The first half of the album is almost entirely forgettable. It‘s very generic hard rock with the tried and true formula that gets so many bands significant radio play. “This Fantasy” is really the only notable track from the first half, which serves as a good album opener. The song kicks your face in from the get go with a strong grunge riff and a strong chorus. Also notable is the electronic influence that is much more prevalent on Arm Yourself
than it was on The Crucial Line
. Every song on the record has some scratching or an electronically generated beat, which only adds to the atmosphere of the album. To complement this, the bassist, when audible, throws in a funky line or two. Unfortunately, he gets left out of the mix for the preponderance of the album. “Lose It All” allows the bass to shine, but the rest of the song is hindered by a very predictable vocal performance and the same hard rock sound that vitiates the music.
The upturn of the album comes at the seventh track, when the piano and tables become more common in the music. The intros of almost every track from this point on comprise of some melodic piano before getting into the meaty riffs. “No Way Out” boasts the best of these piano intros, and rightfully so, showing striking resemblance to God Is An Astronaut’s “Remembrance Day”. “Wasted” employs the electronic sequencing and the piano to the fullest extent, and with another strong chorus, is one of the better tracks on the album.
With The Crucial Line
, Bulletproof Messenger showed much promise with the hopes of being a breath of fresh air from their generic contemporaries. But catchy choruses and distorted guitars can only take the band so far as the gates that every hard rock act seems to be standing in front of. A major gripe I have with Arm Yourself
is that the band neglects the strongest member of the band, Jesse Downing. When he’s heard, Downing’s funky bass grooves take over the album and stand out from the mundane collection of banal riffs that are dispersed throughout the album. Sadly enough, Downing’s contribution to the music is, if not minimal, drowned out of the mix by the overbearing guitars and powerful vocals. Arm Yourself
demonstrates that Bulletproof Messenger has all the pieces required to make a solid rock album, but it then fails to fit them appropriately.