The Armed release one of the defining album of 2015 with 'Untitled' (my review cleverly linked here) for me and 'Forever Scum' made the ATTIWLTMOWOS top ten songs of the year as well. The power of that album is still going strong for me, so I approach this review with the task of also trying to put my fanboy sentiments to the side as well. Sometimes as a fan you can be so into the band that you would be willing to accept a fart in a microphone and throw money at it, I am not saying that is what I expect from The Armed, but I have seen other bands I love fall into that trap. Recorded over the course of two gigs in Detriot & Chicago, this showcases the live performance of the Armed as they were touring 'Untitled'. With the explosive nature of this band, the ferocity of their performance in the studio, it is going to be a challenge to capture that on live audio as there is so much going on with each song; but it is also going to showcase this band playing shows when they had released one hell of an album, let us see how it turned out.....
01 – Future Drugs
As the volume fades in, the wall of feedback increases and then the band erupt into ‘Future Drugs’. This song sounds as intense as it’s studio brethren and just as off the wall. The band truly have an epic task reigning in their own sense of chaos which is the centre piece of their sound, but they manage to keep it from turning into mud and riding the chaos like demons ride the flames.
02 – Nervewrecker
Without skipping a beat, the band launch straight into ‘Neverwrecker’ and in places the band seem to be lost in places. The verses sound as if there is so much going on that it is hard to make sense of the wood from the trees, the sound gets a little lost in places. However, when the groove starts to kick in, they sound like they are declaring war on the world and this is the soundtrack of the destruction to come.
03 -Cop Friends
‘Cop Friends’ is another intense number, a short attack to the senses that is bass heavy and out to mash your various organs into a pulp. The band sound primal in places on this one, there is no room to breathe and it is over before you can truly make sense of what has happened – another class song, but live it is a little hard to follow.
04 – Rhythm 0
At this point, there must have been some sore limbs on that stage and in the crowd, as ‘Rhythm 0’ slows things down, but only from ludicrous speed to manic speed. The drop towards the end of this son into that slow grind is so good, it could smash walls down if played at the right volume. It is one of the best recordings on the album, somehow everything has come together for this song.
05 – Forever Scum
Now ‘Forever Scum’ is my favourite song by this band, it has such a good hook and it can be the sign for chaos to drop in my house at a moment’s notice; however, live it is missing a few beats in places, the sound for the beginning is a sea of noise and it is hard to distinguish anything apart from anything else. With all that said, it still sounds as unhinged as I was hoping it would and it always struck me as a number that would probably end up changing in the live setting – still a legendary song in my books.
06 – No Risk
Out of the feedback ‘No Risk’ is launched with a measured attack that might not have the pace of ‘Future Drugs’ or ‘Forever Scum’, but it has a Killing Joke pace about it that sounds like the mad carnival has been unleashed upon the audience and nobody is going to be getting out of the audience without some sort of injury. One of the highlight of the records.
07 – Party’s at Pablo’s
Back into the chaos we descend as everything is back to all gun blazing and I am wondering how the band are not dead at this point. It is never ending assault on this song and it sounds as if they are playing for their own mortal souls, there is no chances of salvation and everything is going to hell in a handbasket – it is a great number which becomes a glorious and muddy mess towards the end of the song as they slow it down to a harsh and difficult grind.
08 – Paradise Day
‘Paradise Day’ is a welcome relief in some forms, it is a song that slows everything down once again for the band and it still sounds like a sledgehammer to the organs. The live issues that have been the blessing and curse of this record persist once more, but it still sounds fantastic once more.
09 – Rage of Youth
Once more unto the beaches my friend, once more must we go as ‘Rage of Youth’ brings back the chaos and distorted noise to the proceedings. It is a strong number, a little messy in some places once again and yet again, it is kept together without falling apart; exactly what you want from The Armed.
10 – Polarizer
Things might be slowed down on this song to begin with, but you can feel that the beast is awaiting to be unleashed on the world and ‘Polarizer’ does not disappoint you when the noise is eventually unleashed. It goes through the full range of their sound and when they slow it down towards the end and clear vocals are used, it is almost scary and adds another layer of mystery to the band. When they erupt back into the chaos, it sounds intense and brutal, what a track and what a performance on this number.
11 – Ender
‘Ender’ continues the fierce attack that is the calling card of this band, it is has an insane hook towards the middle of the song when it grabs your attention and then it goes through some really harsh grinding sludge that will not be easy for some people to understand. It is one of the songs on the album which sounds louder than its studio twin, somehow the live environment has given this song another level of noise.
12 – ______
After a brief applause, some drumming and feedback, the band launch into the riff from ‘Raining Blood’ by Slayer. It is a brief and sounds like it would have been just to make the crowd go a little more nuts. Quick and to the point as we head into ‘Liar’.
13 – Liar
The band end on a number that has a lot of punk in the mix, some heavy hooks and a lot of aggression, this is a throwback to their 2010 release ‘Common Enemies’. Towards the end of the song, it sounds as if there are some tired people up there; but it is a mixture of chaos and noise that makes this band so interesting.
As a live document, this album showcases how difficult it is to take the music of the Armed and deliver it on stage, the intensity of the music and the level of aggression required for a thirteen track show is huge and I do not envy them the task. Due to the nature of the band, trying to capture these guys live would be a hard task indeed and one I do not envy the soundman/woman trying to complete. Some of the tracks work and some seem a little bit muddy, some work in the chaos and exceled in the reverb and feedback; but nothing on here can be defined as dull or boring. And isn't that what you would want from a band, not to have studio perfect versions in the live setting, but to have savage and explosive songs that come at you? I am still in awe of this band and I hope that they will continue to delight/terrify the great unwashed for many moons to come.
8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart.
Top track - Polarizer
You can download Unanticipated from the Armed Bandcamp page for free.