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Death metal of the first order - 91%

MacMoney, April 26th, 2009

One of Australia's best kept secrets is Armoured Angel, a thrash band from the dark days of the 1980s. Their only full-length, Angel of the Sixth Order, is an even better kept secret than their earlier career. While it lacks the Green brothers, who had been a big part of Armoured Angel, participating in every recording except the very first demo and this, the band's very last recording. The approach here is quite different from the unreleased demo from 1995, the rather slow-paced and anthemic songs aren't on the focus here. With the Greens gone, Lucy has taken a step backwards and returned to the sound of the older recordings for inspiration.

That is not to say that they have regressed though one would be interested in hearing what Lucy would have ended up with the Green brothers and that style of writing. What the band has done here is take a thrash metal approach to death metal. They have written death metal songs with tuned down guitars, a low end heavy production - which may not be surprising since Lucy is a bassist - but used a lot of thrashy riffs. The songwriting is rather simplistic with its typical verse chorus build up. However, the songs always have a C-part that kicks in soon after the second chorus. These C-parts liven up even the dullest songs of the album, Crucifiction - which follows a single fast and simplistic drum beat and riff all through its chorus and verse - and Cervical Slut. In fact, this juxtaposition makes the latter half of Crucifiction seem like one of the best parts of the album. The C-part of Crucifiction is more epic and melodic like the album's beginner, Whore of Babylon, or the single-material of the album, Seven Angels. Both songs feature some of the fastest paces of the album combined with soaring, flowing riffs. Especially the vocal-less chorus of Seven Angels is an excellent example - where the riff is more of a lead actually - that reminds one strongly of the more traditional past of the band.

The traditionality can also be seen in the presence of melody. Actual leads and solos are few and far between, but the riffs more than make up for it, forming surprisingly fluid and melodic wholes. This melodicity combined with the quite old-styled death metal approach to songwriting makes for rather unique sounding death metal to which the rather old sounding production provides even more credence. The guitars have an excellent crunch to them and it lends itself very well to the fluid riffs of Armoured Angel, even though the sound does overshadow the drums and vocals a bit. Their sound is heavy on the low end, which makes the plain sounding bass practically unnoticeable even though it is audible. It is rather surprising considering the bassist is the mainman of the band, but doesn't hinder the band. The overpowering sound of the guitars is a hinderance when it comes to the cymbals. The crashes are mixed rather low and some of the smaller ones get very buried in the mix. On the other end, the hi-hat is distinctly high in the mix, not enough to be irritating unless you are actually listening for it. The bass and snare drums provide a good background though the bass drum's sound is a little flat. It is only noticeable in the parts with double beats.

As for the drumming itself, Steve Luff does a decent enough job. He varies his beats well enough though there are a few faster ones - the aforementioned Crucifiction comes to mind - which could have used more variation. However this might be due to the songwriting as well. There is a surprising amount of unorthodoxly timed and paced bass drum hits in his beats, which always spice things up a bit. He has flair with the toms and cymbals - as showcaed in Whore of Babylon and Seven Angels respectively - as well as fills altogether, though he isn't allowed very much room for those in most songs. Yuri Ward's vocals aren't very unique and sound even lazy when he is not spitting out Lucy's blasphemous lyrics. But they are properly on the low end and fit the music well enough. They aren't so harsh as to muffle the lyrics, though the guitar's make them rather hard to make out. But the whole is more than the sum of its parts. While each persons' single instrumental output is nothing amazing, the unique songwriting and sense of melody combined with aggression makes the album one of a kind record, even among Armoured Angel's own discography.