Review Summary: What's not to love?
The Armed are an unpredictable band to say the least. No one knows exactly who is in the band because they are a collective of people who each seem to contribute to the band in their own way. Look at numerous band photos of The Armed and you will see an unexpected looking group of men and women, but watch a video of them playing live and you will see a completely different group of people. The confidentiality of this band seems by design from the band themselves. They only want you to be concerned with the art rather than the artist; a concept that seems alien to contemporary pop culture in which the business of an artist is more important than the artist’s music. The Armed’s primary objective is to deliver their music to listeners’ ears as efficiently possible, even if that means giving it all away for free on their Bandcamp in lossless quality.
is the followup LP to the band’s 2015 untitled album, an unforgiving album that destroyed everything in its path. However, this time around The Armed show they are capable of love just as much as they are capable of rage. The Armed have always been rooted in hardcore punk, but they have never shied away from experimentation, often including noise, electronic, and even pop elements in their music. Only Love
is The Armed’s most turbulent piece of work yet, never settling for one sound or style.
picks up right where Untitled
left off with “Witness,” a cacophony that serves as the perfect grand opening for this record. This track is as equally dense in noise as it is in melody and showcases The Armed’s new direction. Only Love
is saturated with electronics, and The Armed use them to further drown you in more sound as if they had difficulty doing that in the first place. As loud as “Witness” is, it manages to add on more layers of sound that build up to a grandiose “ta-da” ending. In fact, many of the songs here have a cinematic feel to them that nicely transition from track to track like you’re listening to the soundtrack of a futuristic action movie.
The softer cuts on Only Love
separate it from any other The Armed album with a significant amount of clean singing mixed in with the expected screaming. Shoegazing atmospheres are introduced in “Ultraglass” and “Luxury Themes,” which is one of the best tracks on the album, while “Nowhere to be Found” has a trip hop feel to it. With all the newly engineered beauty in The Armed’s repertoire, it goes without saying The Armed are at their best when they are making earsplitting noise sound like a pop song, and I can’t think of another band that makes noise sound this catchy. Take heed of this craziness in “Parody Warning” which also has the nice surprise of some female vocals.
With all the different layers of sound piled with distortion playing at the same time, it seems like a miracle Only Love
is even an audible record. Even with good speakers this album is definitely optimized for headphone listening. The production is delicately mixed and mastered as abrasive as a hardcore album should sound without compromising the way the electronics intertwine with the instruments. Only Love
is a challenging record for hardcore music, treading water in several different subgenres. But The Armed don’t care. They’re the greatest band in the whole world.