Armed for Apocalypse – Ritual Violence Review

Ah, sludge. The heaviest and slimiest of the fuzzy metals—or so I’ve been told. This actually isn’t a style I venture into at all. So then, why am I reviewing Armed for Apocalypse, described by their own promotional material as an “uncompromising sludge juggernaut?” Boredom, maybe. Curiosity, perhaps? Maybe it’s the fact that the vultures I work with here took all the stuff I’d have liked to review weeks ago. We may never know. But I entered the realm of Ritual Violence, the U.S. quartet’s third full-length album since 2009, with open ears and an open mind. I mean, I’m easy to please—just let the riffs be good. I could do with something heavy.

Something heavy, as it turns out, was probably setting the bar low for this one—of course, it’s heavy. Ritual Violence is a grimy, angry backbreaking record simply for its affinity for the riff. Tracks like “Lifeless” work hard to bludgeon the listener with straightforward, hard-hitting riffs and similarly angry shouts. Nate Burman’s harsh vocal style took a bit of getting used to—his throaty delivery makes it sound like he’s eating something as he performs. But by the time the soaringly chaotic “Full of Phlegm” rolls around, I forget my complaints, just in time to really enjoy one of the best songs on the album. “Full of Phlegm” is a well-paced, menacing, and wild ride that crescendos into utter chaos. Distortion reigns supreme, crushing the bass, the guitars, and the vocals all, and the album hits all the harder for it.

With eleven tracks spanning 43 minutes, Ritual Violence doesn’t hold back much, which is a good thing—certainly, sludge is a style that is prone to doing too much of the same thing. So when opener “Under My Shame” harmonizes with its guitar leads, or “Foredoomed” erupts into a manic guitar solo towards its finish, Armed for Apocalypse emerges looking seasoned, confident, and experienced. These light touches work super well for me—never compromising on speed or brutality, but giving the listener something to remember, something that sets each song apart. Another great example is “Live Through the Storm,” which showcases some great drumming from Nick Harris and builds tension right until a little over halfway through the song when everything goes quiet. Despite threats and teases, the song never rebuilds its grimy momentum. Instead, it drifts in quiet, menacing seas of guitar picking, a cathartic moment that makes a strong impression.

So, really, my only significant criticism of Ritual Violence is something I’ve already mentioned, which is this idea that its style is prone to doing too much of one thing. Around halfway through, it feels a bit like Armed for Apocalypse loses the thread, spending too much time on quick, simple songs that carry the album’s momentum just fine but lack memorability after the fact. “Hourglass” is a good example, an angry song that’s almost cheerful in its delivery but never really does much. Of course, the riffs are heavy as ever, the deliveries strong, and the anger present—but the whole album is like that. As I’ve mentioned, the album is produced to heavily favor distortion, though the sound is otherwise fairly clean. It’s strong, audible, and appreciable chaos, but a few too many songs—”Hourglass,” “Lifeless,” and “Flesh and Blood” among them—aren’t doing enough to keep my interest or stick around after play has ended.

Still, as criticisms go, “too consistent” is hardly shabby, and I want to reiterate that this whole review should probably be taken with a grain of salt, given that this is not my go-to style by any stretch. So it’s entirely possible I’ve underrated Ritual Violence by erring on the side of caution in my rating—it is a consistent, heavy, and enjoyable work of sludge that I’ve liked listening to in the conquest that is this review! If it feels at times like Armed for Apocalypse is playing it safe, that really is fine—their safety is a head-banging, arms-pumped-in-the-air, scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs kind of good time.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: N/A | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Candlelight Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 7th, 2022

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