Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Despite its ultra-clean cover and the premise of its title, 2021’s Ultrapop was anything but a vibrantly chill and melodic record. On the contrary, it found experimental hardcore troupe The Armed dishing out some of their most aggressively manic and avant-garde material to date. Ironically enough, though, follow-up Perfect Saviors is far more deserving of that name, as it sees the band scaling back significantly on their impenetrable havoc in favor of a softer welcoming vibe. The shift isn’t nearly as drastic as, say, going from Deafheaven’s Sunbather to Infinite Granite, but it’s close, and The Armed do a fantastic job altering their sound without forfeiting their individuality.

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Once again, the lineup is expansive, with both new and returning musicians including ex-Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and Jane’s Addiction’s Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins.  It was even mixed by Alan Moulder—who’s worked with U2, The Smashing Pumpkins, 5 Seconds of Summer, QOTSA, NIN, and La Roux, among many other artists—so it’s no shock that Perfect Saviors balances eccentric gruffness and radio-friendly smoothness so well.

Speaking to The Guardian last month, vocalist Tony Wolski confirmed that the record focuses on how the internet impacts critical thinking and relationships. “Too much information has made us dumb. We have too many ways to connect with people and now we just don’t connect at all. … The Armed is essentially a socialist art utopia…  In most great art, there is a sense of whimsy and magic and humour. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to be a joke,” he explained.  

He’s also said that Perfect Saviors is a “sincere effort to create the . . . greatest rock album of the 21st century,” and while it doesn’t achieve that goal, it’s nonetheless a damn fine effort.

The LP’s heightened tunefulness and accessibility are evident from the start, as “Sport of Measure” actually evokes classic Britpop, British indie rock, and baroque pop via nostalgic lyricism, wistful harmonies, and resourcefully ornate instrumentation. Of course, there’s still some punk hostility, too, resulting in clever incongruity that’s incredibly imaginative and—somehow—impeccably fitting. Although they’re more rambunctiously malleable, subsequent tracks such as “Clone,” “Everything’s Glitter,” “Sport of Form,” and “Patient Mind” also fit into that template in unique ways.   

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Throughout the collection, The Armed harken back to their trademark erratic belligerence as well. This is mainly apparent on “Modern Vanity,” “Burned Mind,” “Vatican Under Construction,”  and “FKA World,” as both feature piercing guitarwork, off-kilter rhythms, dissonant sound collages, and/or distorted singing (if not outright screaming).

In lovely contrast, the album even ends with three truly diverse offerings:  the danceable yet deceptively gloomy “Lair 2” (a synth-pop sequel to a track from 2010’s Common Enemies EP); the dreamily orchestral and acoustic ballad “In Heaven”; and the jazzily electronic/shoegaze-esque “Public Grieving” (whose irregular percussion feels overtly lifted from a latter-day Radiohead record). This sequence alone illustrates how sundry and daring are in 2023.

Fans looking for another in-your-face onslaught of wild post-hardcore experimentation may not enjoy everything about Perfect Saviors. However, what The Armed do here is exponentially more valuable and commendable than merely playing it safe. Like the best bands who gradually alter their sound in wide-ranging and welcoming ways, Wolski and company challenge themselves (and their audience) to look forward while appreciating the past. As a result, the genre-bending Perfect Saviors is likely their most confidently and satisfyingly adventurous release thus far.

By Sandra Winters

Writer | Author | Wordsmith Passionate about crafting stories that captivate and inspire. Published author of [Book Title]. Dedicated to exploring the depths of human emotions and experiences through the power of words. Join me on this literary journey as we delve into the realms of imagination and uncover the beauty of storytelling.