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This is an album that is good for precisely one listen per year, all the way from front to back. I'm not sure if that's because it takes precisely 40 minutes before this type of music gets stale to me or what, but that's how this operates. I forget this exists for a while, glaze over it when pawing through my CD collection, think to myself "maybe I should trade this in for something else" and give it a listen, and it ends up being just good enough that I can't justify getting rid of it. It's not great, but I don't really feel cheated either since I only spent a dollar on it.
the entirety of Armour only has one idea on it. It's a pretty good idea, but there's still only one, spread out across a bunch of songs. The songs all fall within a very similar tempo range and are heavily influenced by a mix of Motorhead and WASP (maybe throw a splash of Priest and Dokken, you know the drill). The vocals are your stock 80s glam wailing. There's a solo every now and then. Most of the songs are structured with the hooks as the focal point. I'm not really generalizing THAT much; all of the songs follow a similar template and accomplish the same thing in my ears at the end of the day. If you're familiar with retro-heavy metal of the late '00s, this might be the most straightforward band in the bunch. At the very least, Armour don't really seem to have any sort of insecurity nor arrogance over what they're doing. All of the band members seem to realize this is just a shallow little throwback project for the fun of it. No need to get all serious and weird about it.
Even though I just praised Armour's ability to not take themselves too seriously, I do find myself wishing that the songs had a little bit more depth to them. Even in this style it's not impossible to make a well-rounded, diverse album. The Crimson Idol is a great example of this. Though Vince Venom does a pretty good Blackie imitation, he lacks any of the emotion or character to his voice that gives WASP songs that much more impact. The drummer is nothing more than a placeholder, never really delivering any interesting patterns or noticeable fills. While the superficiality of Armour has its benefits, it's also ultimately what holds the album back from being great. It's good fun for the first few tracks, but the shtick wears pretty thin before the album's end.
Even within the somewhat scarce well of quality bands in the retro-heavy metal scene, there are many bands that would be preferable to listen to over this.
Armour hails from Finland, a country that has had Nightwish and gothic-tinged metal on the brain since the early Nineties, with some old-style traditional metal that seems to be making its reemergence in recent years. It’s a welcome change of pace from the black metal always talked about from that part of our globe.
“Rock ‘n’ Roll Tonite” is exactly what the title implies: a very hard rockin’ anthem that KISS or Loudness might have conjured up back when, but it’s not cringe-worthy or wearing; in fact, while formulaic, it has the charm and tone to carry it well for repeated listens. There is no genre revamp here; yet for me the sound of Armour lies somewhere between Motley Crue and some early Tokyo Blade. You can generously add Tooth and Nail-era Dokken to that mix for a pretty well-oiled effort that rocks pretty hard for the traditional sound I’m finding fun again. “Sex Demon” reminds me of something Canada’s Piledriver might have come up with back in the day: a heavy, power-chord shredding opus that doesn’t take itself too seriously and just gets your blood going.
For some ‘party-on’ hard rock Armour has a pretty good grip on the concept, issuing a forty-minute heavy party record worthy of inclusion in the coveted “to-hear” pile of your collection. “Satan’s Knights” is a complete throwback to the NWOBHM ala Tokyo Blade; it’s a fast-paced tank-through-the-living-room-wall track that really takes me back to the first time I heard Night of the Blade some twenty-five years ago. Vic Wright is certainly channeled in the music here, an obvious plus if you’re a Tokyo Blade fan. If you strain particularly hard you might hear some Tom Kieffer of Cinderella in the delivery as well. While I can easily hear these guys making the MTV rounds back in the Eighties at a time when Ratt and Dokken were still harder than what was to come, the commercial sound doesn’t ruin the music. To be honest, if we still had this type of music in the last part of that decade it would be much more viable and understandable as to why Bon Jovi can still sell out football stadiums today.
Before it became a watered-down mess the hard rock genre was a happy cousin to the straight-forward heavy metal we enjoyed. Then, seemingly overnight, it was infiltrated with New York Dolls wannabes with a three-chord repertoire that courted girls with high hairdos and AOR-friendly ballads. It seemed like a lost cause for our scene, yet here we are, some two decades on and Armour comes up and clears the air with its first full-length. It’s familiar but not contrived; when you hear “Hellfire” I challenge you not to think of Kill ‘em All in the verse riffs. If it doesn’t say “Metal Militia” then nothing does.
Take a chance and check out a solid effort by some heavy Fins.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)
Let me make one thing clear: I don’t usually review “new” or unknown traditional heavy metal bands, the reason being that the recommendations I get are usually from people who have the same kind of specified addiction to the genre as I do for black or death metal. This means that the music tends to be appreciated to its fullest only by said demographic, of which I am not part and therefore cannot give a full or accurate review. However, once in a while, there’s an album that just strikes a chord with me, such as Armour’s self-titled.
This is Armour’s first full-length after a number of demos, splits, EPs and compilations; in short, high time. It consists of ten tracks, clocking in at nearly forty minutes, every one of which is pure old-school heavy metal at its best, when the genre’s inner flame was still burning bright. The riffs are as energy-charged as any of the greats of the early 80s, with soaring, soul-searing solos liberally plastered in every song (on average, at least two per song). The bass is somewhat linear compared to the leads, and while it doesn’t detract from the sound, it doesn’t add much either. The drumming is competent, traditional heavy metal fare, occasionally dabbling into speed metal; not much to say about them beyond that. The vocals delivered by Vince Venom are most comparable to (at least to my ears) Accept’s Udo Dirkschneider; they have the same high-pitched, snarling quality, but remain somewhat more musical than aforementioned example. The backing vocals tend to be “cleaner”, which complements the harshness of the lead vocals surprisingly well. The lyrics consist of your usual trad metal themes, although somewhat more “satanic” than what was usual in the 80s. The production is close to crystal clear, although on occasion one loses track of the bass guitar on occasion.
Again, traditional heavy metal is not my forte; however, even I can say that this album just about sums up the pinnacle of 80s worship, done with class. It bundles up all the restless energy of that era and shoves it straight into your face in a way that would make the old masters proud. The fact that bands can still put out quality heavy metal albums like this one even after three decades of evolution proves that metal is not, in fact, dead. Highly recommended.
-Originally written for Fueled Magazine
I am aware that my review rate has dropped in the last 10 days or so since I secured a job at long last and for that fallacy you must excuse me (Rockfreaks.net does not pay the bills, sadly), but boy do I have a corker of an album to review to bring me back into the fold. The advantage of being employed and thus earning money is that it allows me to dream of summer festivals again, thoughts which gain magnitude when imagining how good Armour would be rocking n' rolling out their Mötley Crüe meets W.A.S.P. meets Accept heavy metal glory in the company of copious friends, beer and sunshine.
At the present time it appears that Armour do not seem to be booked to any festivals, which is a certifiable loss to every single one of them because with summer not too far round the corner (though seeing some signs of spring here in London would be nice) these Finns' self-titled debut is the perfect soundtrack to that environment. In the likely event that you did not know, Armour are essentially another project for the mysterious Vince 'Werewolf' Venom (not his real name, obviously) who can list about 15 hideously underground and Satanic true black metal bands to his résumé, giving Armour the feel that this is his chance to expose his passion for classic heavy metal and to have a good time in the process, an event unlikely in the camps of Satanic Warmaster, Blasphemous Evil and the rest we can safely assume.
Recent times have shown a number of bands do the old-style heavy metal thing again with varying results. Regular RF.net visitors should be aware of my lauding of RAM's "Lightbringer", and with good reason too, but "Armour" is such a wonderfully different listen in many ways, in turn showing the span of the 'heavy metal' genre. The song titles scream out a tongue-in-cheek Spinal Tap demeanour ("Sex Demon", "Rock'n'Roll Tonite" and "Heavy Metal Drinkers" anyone?) and aside from the "Kill 'Em All"-like speed metal of "Satan's Knights" this album is entirely made up of a number of songs so good they would hardly seem out of place on godly metal albums such as "Balls to the Wall" and "W.A.S.P.". Armour are not reinventing the wheel here, with songs built around the Vince Neil-like vocals of Mr. Venom, frequent choral backing from his bandmates and a collection of unadulterated balls to the wall riffs set atop the delayed and vast 80s-style production I love, and many of my fellow writers here hate. And so, with good reason you might ask, why the glorification? The simple answer to that is the consistency of song across the whole album mixed with the genuine conviction to everything associated with this release that separates Armour in my mind from bands like Hammerfall who, in their own heavily clichéd way, peddle the style of true/classic metal.
"Armour" features so many good songs I won't try and explain away my favourites, rather just simply stating they are "Rock'n'Roll Tonite", "Hellfire" and "Heavy Metal Drinkers", the three best on a great album. I am usually harsh on bands who fail to offer anything new to a genre, but with their debut album Armour have nailed the classic sound of Accept and W.A.S.P. to near perfection - the saving grace of any band with such a retrospective view to life. How they may move forward on future albums I don't know but for the time being, check out "Armour" and make it the soundtrack to this year’s summer.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Armour is another of the many projects of 'Vince Venom', more often known as Werwolf, or Nazgul, of Satanic Warmaster, Warloghe, Incriminated, the former vocalist of Horna, and a number of other projects which have infested the Finnish underground like ticks. He's been workin on this band for a few years now, producing a series of demos, EPs and singles which showcased a very old school, raw 80s heavy metal style. He's managed to build a lot of anticipation for this band, since 'retro' is all the rage right now, but few bands are reaching back far enough, or hitting up the less popular style of big 80s European steel.
The main characteristic here is the high pitched, grating vocal charisma Vince is using to front the band, which celebrates the styles of Brian Johnson (AC/DC), Udo Dirkschneider (Accept, U.D.O.), Blackie Lawless, and even Tom Keifer of the glam metal legends Cinderella. For some younger metal heads, or fans of his other, blacker bands, this may prove a large hurdle to cross, but if you're accustomed to the aforementioned influences, there is really no reason you'll be put out when listening to this. It's cheesy, and intentionally so, with the 80s laymans' 'rock and roll' song titling and a slew of simple hard rock rhythms which run the gamut from the above influences to Dokken or W.A.S.P., old Def Leppard to Saxon. This album is anything but ambitious. It's fun, and created simply to revisit (and perhaps revive) a moment in time where metal was about balls out arena performance, big choruses, and just enough talent to score some cocaine or hairspray divas.
Let me put it to you this way: the album begins with a song called "Rock'n'roll Tonite", and ends with a song called "Heavy Metal Drinkers". That is about as deep as it runs. Most of the tracks are pretty inoffensive, with guitar riffs that seem as if they took :30 seconds to compose. But what more is needed? You play a few songs, your frontman gets out there in leather in front of the crowd, you rock their faces off, and ensure that you are all getting laid. Such was the mentality of about 90% of the tasteless hair metal masses of the 80s, but Armour lets down the hair and instead wants us to remember the more enduring acts (some of whom continue to rock all these years later).
All the writing here is so damned fluffy that it becomes difficult to distinguish any high or low points. "Sex Demon" has a nice, steady rocking muted rhythm which is flavored with big chords and hilarious vocals like: 'Girl you're gonna scream tonight, when my bullet hits the spot'. Ah, the proto-perversion! In, "Roll Out (or Get Rocked)", Venom uses a deeper, dirtier vocal line to offset his shrieking, and the riffs are the variety of old school hammering that would go on to create the entire power metal genre. "Satan's Knights" is good and fast and hard, and "Magick Armour" is another pretty kickass primal power metal tune which should have fists banging long after the lighters die and the girls get wild. Probably my favorite track here would be the high speed racer "Hellfire", which is A+++ would do business again material.
Armour sounds like an 80s record, but perhaps a little brighter for the jaded, latter day crowd who may take such a thing for granted. The guitars hiss with a crisp tone and the vocals pierce straight through. This is ultimately a successful celebration of all things cheesy about the good ole times, where the lines between hard rock and heavy metal blur and the party rages all night long. How it sits with a modern audience will depend on how much they can lighten up and enjoy themselves with a fun, largely forgotten sound. This is no Carelian Satanist Madness, but it had me dreaming of lines, leather, and that festering denim jacket in my basement closet.
Highlights: Roll Out (or Get Rocked), Satan's Knights, Magick Armour, Hellfire