The Armed, hailing from Detroit, have long been the enigmatic outliers in the thriving US hardcore scene. Their unconventional approach, shrouded in anonymity for several albums, drew attention, with 2021’s Ultrapop fusing earlier mathcore elements with arena-rock hooks. Despite the acclaim, they played tricks on fans and journalists, maintaining a sense of mystery by using fake names and unrelated images. Now, with the release of their fifth album Perfect Saviors, The Armed have decided to shed the secrecy that had begun to overshadow their music. Frontman and primary songwriter Tony Wolski, previously known under the alias Adam Vallely, steps into the limelight.
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However, The Armed‘s reputation for unpredictability continues, as Perfect Saviors marks a departure from hardcore. Instead, the album embraces the influences of noughties garage-rock and ’70s glam. Collaborations with renowned musicians are another notable feature, including Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age (who co-produced the album), Josh Klinghoffer of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam, Beck, Nine Inch Nails‘ Justin Meldal-Johnsen, David Bowie‘s drummer Mark Guiliana, and Julien Baker.
Upon listening to Perfect Saviors, it becomes clear why these established artists were drawn to the project. While The Armed‘s sound has evolved to be more accessible, their characteristic forward-thinking approach remains intact. They skillfully blend their influences, resulting in captivating songs characterized by intricate layers of sound that provide each track with distinct depth and intensity. The evolution from their hardcore roots to this rock-and-roll fusion is seamlessly executed.
The album’s standout moments occur when The Armed fearlessly venture into genre experimentation. “Modern Vanity” exudes a glam-rock swagger, creating a striking contrast when Wolski’s vocals transition into screams during the chorus. “Liar 2” showcases groovy electronic elements, serving as the album’s poppiest track, producing a sonic atmosphere that’s downright euphoric.
Binding the album’s diversity is “Sport of Form,” positioned at the midway point. This track refuses accessibility or conventional structure. Juxtaposing jarring electronic noise with serene acoustic interludes and vocals, Wolski delves into the complexities of public perception and unattainable standards. The song culminates in a haunting finale as Wolski and Baker harmonize the poignant lines, “Does anyone even know you? Does anyone even care?” This climactic moment resonates long after the album’s conclusion. Amidst The Armed‘s audacious sonic shift, it’s this track that provides a sense of wholeness. In the end, the album’s greatness lies in the willingness to build something remarkable, only to deconstruct it entirely.