It was noted in the comments that there’s been a lot of negativity around here lately. That’s not false: 2016 has suffered the runs worse than a 3rd grade recorder recital that accidentally hit the brown note. Whether that’s due to an outflow of compelling material, the recent infestation of scrubs (That’s Dr. Scrvb to you), or just something in the water at AMG Inc., the readership can only take so much aspersion. So after I put my head on my desk and groaned precisely two minutes and sixteen seconds into The Era of Precarity, I swore I wouldn’t embrace the misery. If Re-Armed could generate a lick of positivity from their hyphenated frames, I was going to find it.
Revamped after band turmoil left vocalist Jouni Matilainen as the group’s only original member, the death-by-way-of-thrash outfit from Finland dumps much of the deathcore persuasion that characterized 2012’s Worldwide Hypnotize and 2014’s Rottendam. “Lullabye of Obedience” introduces a groove-death production fused with the meatier thrash riffing that restored bands like Testament, Exodus, and Kreator to prominence in recent years. Launching a weighty assault that might have been pilfered from the Hordes of Chaos sessions, proceedings are off to a promising start… until the “clean.” Quotes here because the vocals don’t shift out of Matilainen’s stilted growls, but they want to, oh so badly. Quasi-melodic and painful to listen to, they trumpet the immediately apparent lack of creativity that dominates The Era of Precarity. The remainder of “Lullabye” fares as you’d expect, identical verse section, identical chorus, bridge, chorus, solo, close. Lifting my head off my desk a second time, I hoped the album might rally, that a bad start didn’t presage a bad end. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
The Era of Precarity commits music’s cardinal sin: it’s boring. Re-Armed’s central direction maintains the technicality prerequisite for a death-based band but owns a certain eye-glazing effect. The Finns are impressively committed to repeating your average two-bar riff four times, then cutting an ostensibly different riff four more times. And then another. And another. This scarcity of variation invites the worst form of doublethink. Forty minutes plods along at quarter pace during active listens, while passive attempts zip by as the subconscious blends it all into one easily ignorable cacophony. “Through the Barricades;” “Years of Decay;” “The Aftermath;” “Cursed Beyond Belief;” after twelve spins, I can still barely separate one from another. Even the exciting aspects drag on too long, as enticing starts to “Riot Act” and “Evolve Cycle” go nowhere fast. Re-Armed do try to spruce the place up a bit; yet shoehorning in everything from synth to bluesy Pantera-style interludes fails to blunt the wall of noise.
Many of Era’s faults can be traced to its head-scratching origins as a concept album. I imagine the poor decision to neuter Matilainen to a mediocre half-growl was with the goal of keeping his lyrics intelligible. However, the lone string of plot or lyrical cohesiveness that emerges is the same non-descript “rise up against your faceless oppressors” gunk that tired out ten years ago. As a side effect, the resulting top-heavy mix leaves Iiro Karjalainen’s drums obscured throughout. I also suspect Re-Armed intended the quick burst of static nail-gunned onto the end of each track to play into their conceptual fantasy, but the transition often registers as no more than a jarring pop in the speakers. On the bright side, “Purification” and “Ivory Towers” survive as the most competent tracks and largely avoid the vanilla hue that colors the rest of the spin. The former employs a refreshingly different Dying Fetus-meets-Napalm Death approach while the latter is the pinnacle of Re-Armed’s vision, tight and focused with just enough gallops and bass noodling to stick.
I wanted to be positive, I really did, but there’s no way around poor product. The Era of Precarity watches paint dry to a blasé collection of beige riffs and non-deviant songwriting. Given Re-Armed’s proficiency at crafting less snore-inducing deathcore, perhaps any time with them would be better spent on previous offerings. If you must have a ray of sunshine from this nattering nabob of a review, a portion of the record’s sales heads to a Finnish charity for the elderly and youth. If that convinces you to invest in The Era of Precarity, well, you’re a better fellow than I. All I know is that next time I’m requesting doom so I can fully embrace the murk of all this pessimism.