The Armed employs its entire tool box from the get-go: “Witness,” the opener of its third album Only Love, begins with a prog-like synth squiggle before roaring forth with an operatic blend of harmonic guitars, jackhammer rolls by hardcore skinsman Ben Koller and Randall Kupfer’s larynx-shredding melodrama. Chaos soon blossoms into an assured, cohesive and resounding work.
It’s not the Detroit act’s only magic trick. For one, The Armed manages to coalesce disparate influences; imagine a brew equally inspired by hardcore pillar Converge (which includes Koller and Only Love producer Kurt Ballou), lullaby metal crew Deafheaven, electronic post-punk outfit The Faint and Mellon Collie-era Smashing Pumpkins. That sonic profile works chiefly because the musicians excel at arrangement and balancing their extremes: rawness and beauty, cacophony and nuance, discord and tunefulness. The rhythmic artillery and instrumental squalling of “Luxury Themes” can’t discount the vocalists’ tack-sharp melodicism, an affecting juxtaposition repeated throughout the album. As such, Only Love isn’t merely noise and bloodletting, and the resulting complexity makes it a revelation.