Detroit collective The Armed have been around in their largely enigmatic existence for a number of years now, even to the extent of hiring actors for promo trails, but last year’s chaotic and seductive annihilation that was their third album, ‘Only Love’ received a notable amount of attention.
Their bizarre musical amalgamation of Converge, Daughters, and 1980s new wave peppered with absurd 8-bit sounding synths has certainly warranted the attention. Given that tonight’s show is a sellout, a lot of people here are either curious, or fully-signed-up members of the cult.
Tonight’s opener is Chaos Reigns , who also opened for Attan last week, so it seems they’re really starting to hit the ground running. Unlike the aforementioned show, they’re playing to far more people this time around, and the sound is even more ferocious, showcasing plenty of depth. Their Gallows/The Bronx-esque punk and hardcore fury is certainly a great warm up. This band could be an interesting proposition in a few years.
Next up are Brighton/Croydon act Rough Hands . The notable anguish in the shrieked vocals combined with a slightly soundscape-y delivery creates a head-banging experience that can also subtly pull you in at the same time. Even with hardcore in a strong place right now, they bring a lot more to the table than the majority of what’s around. Recalling the likes of Deftones and Will Haven with a strong ear for atmosphere, they deserve to have more attention bestowed upon them.
But nothing can prepare you for what’s about to unfold with The Armed . One of the questions that regularly gets asked, of course, is “Who is in The Armed?”. Besides the Converge association (Kurt Ballou produced ‘Only Love’, and Ben Koller drummed on it), no one really knows unless they’ve been granted top-secret, insider information. Robert Trujillo (Metallica) was even speculated to be involved at some point.
The stage is slowly but surely doused in smoke before tonight’s anonymous hardcore superstars take to the stage, meaning it’s even harder to answer the ever-pervading question. Before we know it, we’re transported into another dimension.
You can try and come up with many witticisms and analogies to describe something you have listened to or seen, but to put it simply, seeing The Armed live will leave you with utter bewilderment, to say the least. Yes, this may not be the 1980s in Ronald Reagan’s America, when hardcore shows were getting shut down on a regular basis and marred with violence, but this looks and feels dangerous, especially when ‘Apperception’ leaves us barely any time to prepare. The end of the world begins now.
Some research tells you that there are multiple members called Dan in the band, and it could well be one of them on vocals tonight. In many songs he wanders around the crowd, covering many areas of the venue; getting on top of the bar, crawling around on the floor, and even finding an opportunity to pick up a member of the crowd and carry them on his shoulders. On top of all this, the extreme and continuous strobe lighting employed means that everything going on around you looks like a cataclysmic, beer-soaked, stop-motion nightmare.
They also have one or two more melodic numbers in to give people a breather in a way. A short blonde woman who could possibly be Cara (or anyone else, for that matter) joins the stage to shriek the verses of ‘Fortune’s Daughter’ before a grand sing-along occurs for the chorus.
Their set ends on an unfortunate note, though. Despite the band playing virtually a full set, the chaos is stopped somewhat abruptly mid-song as the vocalist brings attention to what appears to be somebody having an epileptic fit. Even a band such as The Armed know where the line is drawn, and it’s a relief to hear that at the time of writing, the attendee has recovered and is doing fine.
It’s not the thing you would have wanted the show to end on, but no one will forget it in a hurry. The Armed have shown that they can bring chaos and bewilderment, but they also have the songs and musical quality to back up the mystique that surrounds them. This band are dangerous, wild, unpredictable, mysterious, and almost every other superlative you can think of. So many bands try to be all of those things and fall so pathetically flat in comparison.
Everything that 90% of rock bands they are, The Armed already are. Malevolently mesmerising stuff.