Album Review: Armed For Apocalypse, Defeat

[from MadeLoud, September 28, 2009]

Is it possible for a band—even a self-styled extreme band—to be too metal? The question is probably more academic than practical, but Chico, CA-based Armed for Apocalypse seem to have set their sights on being the most metal band ever.

From the opening right cross of “We Fell From the Bottom,” Armed for Apocalypse go all-out on every note, and the track’s abrasive nature nicely sets the tone for the audio belligerence to come. As vocalist Kirk Williams screams his guts out over the furious, all-in all-the-time group smashfest, the track quickly drops back into a (slightly) more groove-oriented breakdown before heading straight back into thrash territory. It’s this push-pull dynamic that defines much of Defeat, and the constant musical schizophrenia gives the band more in common with mathcore groups like Dillinger Escape Plan or Protest the Hero than with the thrash or death bands that define metal’s current bleeding edge.

Thematically, however, Armed for Apocalypse are a nod to the time-honored tenets of heavy metal. Death, pain, evil, suffering — it’s all there, even when Williams’ vocals drown in the mud of the album’s mix. The drowned sound of the disc in turn blends Williams and guitarist Cayle Hunter’s dueling riffs into a monolithic wall of pain, while bassist Corey Vaspra and drummer Nick Harris don’t even bother to hold the tracks together; by splintering their parts and soldering them onto each other, such as the nearly atonal “A Collapse,” the band have actually rejected the time-honored metal tradition of placing multiple songs within songs and instead placed multiple songs atop songs.

When Defeat succeeds, such as the raw sewage doom of “The Demon Who Makes Trophies of Men” and the mighty right-left combo of “A Failure” and “Hero Complex,” the blatant spectacle-making of the nonstop body blows of the rest of the disc becomes slightly justified, but the cartoonish clumsiness of “Torchlight Search for the Dead” and “You Are Alive When They Start to Eat You” sets the album back considerably. For a debut it’s not bad, but in and of itself much of the disc becomes self-lampooning.

With Defeat, the quartet has revealed itself not as preparing for the end times, but as a battalion forging the soundtrack for the last battle between good and evil — evil, naturally, comes out on top.