Review Summary: The Armed bring their head splitting, face ripping spastic noise to bigger and more diverse heights on "Untitled".
Hardcore ( or metallic hardcore if you wanna get genre picky and nerdy) has gone through a evolution of ups and down throughout the last 15 to 20 years or so. The days of the Botchs and the Coalesces of the late 1990's and early 2000's in particular have all but disappeared except for the instance of The Dillinger Escape Plan (love em or hate em) who have been belting out one record after another being the flag bearer for the genre. As of the last year five or six years however has seen the return of the sound that at the time of it's rise was seen as an outsider sound within the extreme music community. Seizures out of California, Cult Leader (formerly Gaza) out of Salt Lake City, as well a multitude of other bands take the same musical path that the forefathers of this genre ( for a lack of a better term) have laid out while further evolving and making it their own. That finally leads us to Detroit's The Armed and their latest "Untitled" record. Although pushing one debut in 2009 and a few eps and split 7"s for a good six years now this is The Armed's second release exploring and melding this genre into something tangible and chaotic and seizure inducing as well as putting their own footprint into this genre.
Though the differences of The Armed's previous releases and this one are slight and with just a handful of listens won't be apparent to most, there still is bit of difference however. Although this record starts off like you'd expect with any The Armed record, shrill math rocky song structures, throat ripping vocals, it's not the only thing that defines this record. "Future Drugs" and "Rage of Youth" are basically The Armed doing what they do best which is not a bad thing but there seems to be more of a "punk rock" focus although be it slight while the calculated and mathy approach has been swapped lightly for a more diverse and to the point set of songs."Blessings" has a more punk feel to to it with stomping drums and the chorus gang vocals along with the power chord-ish approach with all of these elements making it very anthemic without losing edge and energy. In fact a lot of what goes on vocally has a lot of moments of fists in the air sing along anthemic parts to it without coming across as corny like on midway mark of "Isaachar"."Paradise Day" albeit is still very abrasive but is also melodic in its structure for the most part and gang vocals come in at the end lightly.
The production on "Untitled" is one upped as well handled by Kurt Ballou and, if at all possible, makes their sound even more headache inducing and frantic and gives their music more of a focused feel. The guitars are bright and ear-piercing and at the same time heavy and fierce and the bass is thick and very audible Kurts production chops bring a much bigger and better sound to the band. Nick Yacyshyn whom you might know from bands such as Baptists and Sumac does drums on here and, though technically talented and spastic as his playing is, he brings variety and cohesiveness to the record ranging from his signature crazy drumming ("Future Drugs", "Forever Scum") to hardcore punk inspired drum hooks ("No Risk", "Nervewrecker").
Within the first several listens in the differences of not only The Armed's previous releases compared to "Untitled" but their peers as well will likely not be that apparent to anyone who is familiar with this form of extreme music. As the listener dives deeper into the records these elements and changes of approach become more clear. Better production and progression of songwriting makes each song stand in it's own on "Untitled". Though the ever rotating members and contributors of this (Chris Pennie, Nick Yacyshyn, etc.) it's very impressive to see a band still maintain it's focus, energy and songwriting chops and keep creating quality works of sheer ferocity and power.