Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Armoured Angel - Mysterium

These guys get namedropped a lot but have a pretty small following. That's a shame!
With a name as cool as "Armoured Angel," you'd think they would be more popular. A.A. started out in the mid-80s making totally killer black/speed metal, kind of like early Destruction. I think this is the era for which they are fondly eulogized by the Destroyer 666 crowd. By the early 1990s, however, they had completely shifted gears to something weird and unique.

The Mysterium EP sounds like what I imagined extreme metal sounded like before I'd heard any of it--it's built on a churning undercurrent of midtempo palm-muting, and it grooves like a beast. This has nothing to do with Pantera or deathcore, though. It's vintage black/death metal through and through. A.A. have a really strong sense of rhythm and melody, and they appreciate the power that comes from shifts and transitions. Their elegant riffing sounds superficially like Bolt Thrower, but has much more to do with Killing Joke. It radiates distorted warmth. The vocalist is great, with a deep and primitive death growl. All in all, Armoured Angel take a smart approach to a "dumb" sound, and it just works. It's so much fun to listen to. You'd think that there would be a ton of bands playing this kind of stuff, but there aren't.

If you have a friend who read about Sunn O))) on Pitchfork, and now thinks he is "into metal," play this for him as a litmus test. During the opening seconds of the first track, "Myth of Creation," you will hear a chug riff so archetypal it sounds like the first one ever written. Your friend's eyes should open wide with anticipation at the sonic carnage to come. At 0:20, the beat drops and the vocalist roars something like "diiiiieeeeeeee!" Or maybe just "daaaaaaaahhhh!" Your buddy should start headbanging furiously, and preferably throw the horns. Sadly, he will probably just piss himself and cry.

The most brutal moment, though, comes in the latter part of "Enigmatize." There's a somber melody followed by a single ringing chord. Then, at 2:59, A.A. go balls out with the most rapidly picked chug riff on the album, and the vocalist does his awesome "daaaaaaaahhhh!" thing again. He does that pretty much whenever he feels like it, and the great thing is these parts will make you want to growl random shit too.

The atmosphere of this album is amazing. It's heavy as fuck, but not in a typical death metal way. It's occult, but not in the stereotypical sense of the word with lots of reverb and spooky voices. It's physically gripping, but not just in terms of inducing headbanging: It's sensuous! This could be the soundtrack to some really gnarly sex. Mysterium embraces you and pulls you into a world pulsating with violence.

Anyway, if you're starting a band seriously consider ripping these guys off. I'll probably be doing some more posts on them. Also, I REALLY want to hear their unreleased 1996 full-length, produced by Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke.


  1. also, this doesn't sound like Morbid Angel at all, but if you like the feel of "Blessed Are The Sick" I think you will like this.

  2. Cool track. Thanks for introducing me to it.

  3. Cheers man, my pleasure! Really good to know I've done at least a little to spread the word about A.A. I looked at your blog and like that you're regularly reviewing individual tracks, I'll definitely check back for old weird stuff I haven't heard.

  4. The 1996 album was never finished, so it will probably stay unreleased. A compilation of their demos and EP's with the classic lineup came out recently. Everything's remastered and the sound is just killer. Their preproduction demo for the unreleased album is on there too.