[23rd July 2013]
01. The Starting Line Is a Trip Wire
02. Better World
03. The Well
04. Open Wound
05. Built to Kill
06. The Road Will End
07. Worth the Weight
08. Drawning the Line
09. Happy Hour (Disciples of Death)
10. Ends Meet
It has been four long years since Armed For Apocalypse dropped their crushingly heavy debut Defeat on us – such is the reality for bands without the profile to ditch the day jobs for a life on the road – but now they come lumbering back out of Northern California with second album The Road Ends Here.
Guitarist/vocalist Cayle Hunter brings with him a fairly impressive back catalogue, with spells in Will Haven, Ghostride and Abominable Iron Sloth in his pre-Armed For Apocalypse years, and so those who are aware of these bands will have a good idea of what to expect here.
Armed For Apocalypse build on the brutal sludge of this trio of bands by incorporating some stoner elements of bands like Down – a cover of “Temptation’s Wings” appeared as a secret track on Defeat – and the no-nonsense approach and energy of hardcore bands like Hatebreed. The results are intoxicatingly heavy.
The Road Will End is a muscular, dynamic release, but what really separates Armed For Apocalypse from their peers is that this dynamism doesn’t come from the tried-and-tested juxtaposition of quiet and loud; the album is loud throughout the overwhelming majority of its 42-minute run-time. Instead, the dynamics are drawn from the band’s masterful command of tempo.
Lead single and opening track “The Starting Line Is A Trip Wire” sets off at a gallop, but the band stamp on the brakes after this opening salvo, halving the BPM. The effect is as devastating as flying into the wall of a canyon.
This device is the fundamental driver throughout the album, but it is deployed in such a variety of different ways that it does not feel over-played. As well as the big-hitting and abrupt speed shifts, subtle changes to either the beats or riffs independently of each other affect the tone in a manner that punches above their individual weights.
“Open Wound” contains a multitude of these changes, but each one feels completely natural. “The Well” starts slow, then gets even slower. These contrasts amplify the heaviness in a way that supposedly brutal one-note deathcore bands could only dream of. “Drawing A Line” takes it to the extreme, with a blast-beat segueing effortlessly into a spacious, almost dreamy section that wouldn’t sound out of place on Down’s Over The Under.
The riffs are unfussy and all the more memorable for it. This album is right up with Clutch’s latest album Earth Rocker in terms of ruthless efficiency and getting maximum impact from a minimum of notes. The band have clearly used the time between releases to really hone their song-writing skills, which gives the tracks a cohesion that is rare in a genre that can often be characterised by unfocused bludgeoning.
Three of the four members share vocal duties as well, which allows for individual vocal lines to over-lap or accentuate each other. This adds another layer of variety that many other bands lack.
In short, The Road Will End is a great metal record. It packs a punch beefier than a ten ton cow, which appeals to our baser, primal instincts – but it is also interesting, well-paced and deft enough in its execution to provide more cerebral pleasures at the same time. This is a rare treat.