The second album from the Detroit hardcore collective is as ambitious as it is effective. Noise, art rock, and a surprising amount of hooks are knotted within their chaotic maximalism.
Part of the thrill of these 11 songs is that they often sound like they’re about to burst or implode, but they never lose their course. On repeat listens to the Armed’s second album Only Love, you start to realize just how finely woven it all is—chaos careens off chaos, using the tracks before them as last-second momentum pushes before disappearing again, infusing what comes next with an extra shot of energy. From opening synth line to closing noise implosion, it’s part relay race, part punk-rock opera.
This feels like a pop record, albeit one with rabies. The Armed create nihilistic hardcore anthems that’ll find you shouting “Everything dies!” “Nowhere to be found!” and “Kill your heroes where they sleep!” The unexpected hooks are courtesy of the conceptual framework they created for the collection: The definitively punk/metal/hardcore band sought to write these songs as if they had never heard punk, metal or hardcore before, just trying to conjure the pop music of their formative years. They’re a band who’s covered Smashing Pumpkins in the past, their debut album Untitled included plenty of slower bits, and their interest in those other zones feels very genuine—which is the only way you can pull something like this off.
As might be expected, it’s hard to pin down the Armed stylistically. They create raw-voiced music that mixes hardcore dynamics, experimental electronics, and a smeared sense of melody. They have three people handling guitar, three vocalists (two male, one female), and variety of synthesizers and electronics besides the airtight rhythm section. They bring to mind a revved-up arty Liars circa Drum’s Not Dead, or maybe ’90s eccentrics Brainiac, or a more playful Converge. It’s, of course, foolish to compare a band this specifically themselves to another band; it’s maybe best to think of Only Love as one of those moments where you have leaky headphones and the sounds of traffic, car alarms, someone’s stereo blasting Fuck Buttons, and a kid crying combine to create a momentary orchestra in your brain.