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Yes, this is one of those releases that has ‘the’ magic but when you consciously start analysing you just don’t seem to get it! Armoured Angel play two kinds of songs here. We have the slow, eerie, catchy and even groovy death metal tunes and there are high paced songs with a black metalish polka beat. I prefer the slow songs. Something I normally will never do!
There’s something about their slow songs. A hypnotising effect. The vocals are light-weight grunts eighties style and the guitars have this old Bolt Thrower atmosphere sound wise. On top of that there is a certain groove I recall from the earliest days of God Dethroned (the groove from “Cadavers” on their first demo). I know, I know. Normally concepts like ‘groove’ or ‘slow death metal’ are something from which I run. But Armoured Angel make it work here. The songs, sound and performance here perfectly fit together.
At first I skipped their faster songs but after a few listens the songs fell into place. Even though the pace is high, the over all atmosphere is actually not that different from the slow tunes. Due to their intrinsic simplicity and straight forwardness they’re hypnotising as well.
We’re talking a short and obscure death metal EP from the early nineties here which I’m glad I finally discovered.
Named like a power metal band with a logo to match and described in enough ‘80s zine encounters as speed/thrash, I was kinda taken back when this four-songer landed in my tape deck and strayed from what I was expecting. Strayed and was somewhat disappointing.
Little had I known that down under’s Armoured Angel had plucked its dishwater-gray speed/thrash feathers to grow even dingier, ’92 Bolt Throwerian plumage in their place. That’s not the disappointing part, however, ‘cause I rather enjoyed VIth Crusade and its cellar-quaking, mountain-o-sound frightmare that plastered stores actually after this ep took flight (but didn’t crash land in my mailbox ‘til mid-’93). It didn’t bother me that the cleverly-titled Stigmartyr threw thrash/speed’s rusty razor back into the honored swamp of the ‘80s. Not at all, and I can only assume that the cell-scraping B chords (or whatever, I’m not a guitarist so sue me if I’m off) and Joel’s raspwhisper drawl are new atonal depths found snuggled within this particular pro-printed J-card. Then there’s the massive mix bulldozers would have a hard time pushing around.
With a collective look at these individual components, it’s evident the three-piece believed the writing they saw weeping from the wall and invented the ‘90s half of their dichotomy. A good move, I guess, considering what was dying behind them. Its heavy, mostly mid-speed death toil is almost hypnotic in its single minded grind. Leaning back, the wall of metal vibrates you in your chair as the molten grumble becomes a body cushion of double bass fusion, and slowly you come to know…peace…?...kinda like succumbing to road rumble during a prolonged car ride. So what does that mean, you ask. Well, it’s like Bolt Thrower with fewer rhythmic distractions. Unfortunately, those distractions are often the hooks, curves, and S-bends of songscripting. Without them you have, well, something like this, and throwaway “Ordained in Darkness”, a tune that tiptoes around the group’s destructiveness with lighter tempo intimation, filtered-in cacophony (crowd chants, multiple militant/commissary/religious speeches, all of which can barely be made out), and the last twenty seconds where this very light, single-toned keyboard note floats through like a phantom to the end, is a bit useless. It’s like BT outro “Through the Ages”, but it’s asking directions on the corner, or is just plain too cerebral. As an outro I guess it’s rudimentarily acceptable…if this thing had eight songs instead of four.
As for the rest, the songwriting seems a bit less is more that kinda failed. Blast beat hail will explode on your windshield here and there in the title cut, and “Hymn of Hate” and “Beyond the Sacrament” conjure a rhythm or two that veer into the shoulder of on-coming traffic and back. Luckily drummer Joel leans on a horn that doesn’t sound like Karl Willettes incarnate, but more a breathy marriage of black/death that’s just fine in my book.
Now don’t let me steer you off into the woods. I’m not saying these are the only swerves in the road, but just fewer than I had gotten geared up for. Its strength is its pure, bowled-over intensity, and Stigmartyr gets high signs at least for that, but there isn’t enough captivating songwriting to scribble an A and a star on the paper. These are, however, more than Bolt Thrower tossed-off tracks.