Armory - The Search - (8/10)
Published on November 14, 2018
Bands with something actually new to add to old styles are few and far between. Therefore, tenuous though it may be, the unique feature of Armory’s classic speed metal sound may help them to stand out. So, just what is this unique feature? In the first place, one should bring to mind details about the roots of speed metal: think a little beyond Helloween to another German group – Scanner – and their US contemporaries Agent Steel. What do those groups have in common? Not sure? How about if we include (sadly-defunct) Swedish neo-speedsters Steelwing? Aliens: all these groups are nuts about aliens. Armory proved with their debut World Peace…Cosmic War that they were preoccupied by the topic of the unknown quantities awaiting in deep space, yet sophomore The Search makes absolutely sure you know about their obsession, backing up the cover image with titles like “Star Voyage”, “Polymorphic Intruders”, and “The Twin Suns of Solaris”. These Swedes are nuts about aliens too.
The key feature in freshening the sound of the ‘80s is the ability of Petrus Andersson to let out a high-pitched shriek that sounds just like a mysterious beam wubbing in from the furthest reaches of space. Geeky though that may sound, it won’t prevent the hairs rising on the listener’s neck the first time they hear it on the opening title track, nor does it detract from the whiz of engines as the UFO switches into hyperdrive and whisks you away into some weird corner of the universe at the speed of light. The gimmick makes the album initially exhilarating, while it is the band’s skill with their instruments that ensures The Search proves a lasting success. Following some praise of the folk metal band Irrbloss, in which two members of Armory participated, the five-piece seem like dab hands at other genres too, bringing the blitzkrieg German approach to their vicious speed without forgoing the necessary Iron Maiden melodies to balance the songs. Evil Invaders and Ranger are currently setting the standard for additional heaviness in the genre and Armory are also happy to keep both speed and power high for 40 minutes.
“Utomjordisk Dominans” constitutes the only Swedish language moment of the release; nevertheless, even Scando-dummies are bound to find the crazed riffing and creative drum work a better reason to shake their heads than the perplexity of the lyrics, a head-shaking that may result in neck ache at a later date. The berserk energy that the guitarists endow “Utomjordisk Dominans” with extends to most of the album too, the shrieking leads on “Hyperion” and the twinkling fills at the introduction of “Polymorphic Intruders” showing the pair at their finest. August Holmström also does a sterling job of keeping the songs on track, often using the cymbals to enhance the chaos of the lightning melodies, thus hollowing out the sound without lowering the pace and bringing variety to the intensity as a result. Of the 10 full songs on The Search (“Star Voyage” turns out to be less a long journey and more a 56 second walk down the stairs), none drop the pace considerably, though “Vault Seven” and “Hisingen Warriors” have the most breathing space and end up closest to traditional heavy metal.
This uniformity thus leaves Armory with a slight problem: the songs, while all individually strong, don’t leave a lasting impression of specific features. Deviation from plan A never occurs and the speed becomes overpowering despite some attempts to break the momentum, as with the tasty marching opening of “The Twin Suns of Solaris”. That means the listener may tire with The Search before the album’s conclusion, though generally brief track lengths and consistent quality make endurance less problematic than it might otherwise be. Still, in a genre not known for its diversity, one can’t expect every album to aim for variety at the cost of strong fundamental skills. Armory have made a big step with their second full-length; now we await the giant leap towards perfection.