Arm the Angels: Novus Ordo Seclorum
Review #1: 9 out of 10
There is so much to say about this record, I’m not even sure where to start. It was initially presented to me as a new band with former members of Agent 51 and Pivit. I’m pretty familiar with what both of those bands did over the years, so I was really curious to
hear this new project. When I played the first track, several things were evident right off the bat. First, this is a very well produced CD. The mix, tones, resolution… all that stuff is top notch for an independent release. Secondly, the degree of hard work put into the tracks stands out. More specifically, this CD has all of the bells and whistles: audio clips, additional percussion, *tons* of vocal harmonies (even some vocal bends which I personally think rule), lots of guitar and vocal over dubs, near perfect meter, big thick doubling and chorus effects, loud vs. clean channel dynamics, additional steel string guitars etc… It’s all there dude trust me, and it’s all executed with complete tact!
What do these guys sound like? Well, I hear a lot of stuff going on. Clearly I can tell these guys are heavily rooted in that 90′s melodic sound that Fat Wreck, Epitaph, and labels of the like continue to put out. These guys probably all listened to Unwritten Law a lot back in the day. Now don’t get the wrong impression here. This is only partly where I think these guys are coming from. A closer examination of the songs reveals some definite gritty rock influence from the 70′s and 80′s. For example, the song “Urban Lights” has an obvious AC/DC influence. On other tracks I heard moments of The Knack, especially in the song “Sidewinder.” On yet another song, “Haunt This Town,” there is a moment that I’m pretty sure all the guys from Arm the Angels passed their instruments to The Police to track a nice little Roxanne-esque break.
So what does all of this mean? Did Arm the Angels just go out and steal a bunch of stylings from past bands to make a rip off record? On some level, I would say yes. *BUT* at the same time, I would also say that there is no question that these guys have put their own spin on it all, so it still maintains sincerity and originality to the fullest degree. How you might ask? They bring all of their influences into the modern age. A big key to all of this rests in the up-to-date feel of the cadences and melodies within the vocals… And while I’m thinking about it, I just wanted to give these guys a special thank you for not getting into the whole scream-then sing-then scream again-then sing some more, back and forth over and over. God knows that whole genre is saturated right now. If you listened to “Novus Ordo Seclorum” without the vocals, you may be led to think that “scream/sing” is exactly the sound that Arm the Angels play, but it’s not!!! They just rock and they do it solid with a lot of style and energy. This is a great release!
…And I’m not done yet… I do not want to end this review without mentioning the guitar work on this record. These guys can play! They do all of the typical open strumming and chunka-chunka palm muting power chord stuff of course, but they start to separate themselves from the pool of mediocre players in a few different ways. First, they do a lot of the nu-metal type technical riffs. While this is common nowadays, let it be known that ATA does it better than a lot of bands. Same thing with the guitar solos and leads. Anyone can play a wanking pentatonic riff, but to do it with tact is another story. It’s been a long time coming, but the fundamentals of playing instruments and actually learning about *craft* is making a huge come back in music these days. ATA is right in the pocket!
Review #2: 7 out of 10
Arm the Angels play driving rock in the spirit of former San Diego surf punks Pivit, and while they obviously draw on influences like the Foo Fighters, “Norvus Ordo Seclorum” does offer some new twitches and tweaks to the formula. While I am a fan of the aforementioned acts, and even though there are some tracks on this release worth checking out, (particularly “We Won’t Fall”, “Last Goodbye” and “Sidewinder”) I find that overall Arm the Angels still has some growing to do. This becomes increasingly clear as the band segues into an AC/DC influenced style of song writing towards the end of the album. While the last track “Bury the Blade” cleans things up nicely after this break in consistency, it’s still hard to forget about those sore-thumb songs. Arm the Angels craft some great songs and play them well and I’ll be interested to see how their next release unfolds. I hope that they find more of their own niche and grow into an even more developed band on their next release.