You will be punished
Local metal heavyweights Armed for Apocalypse reload for further destruction
On a recent sweltering evening in north Chico, I was granted a front-and-center preview of local metal-act Armed for Apocalypse’s forthcoming album, The Road Will End, from a vantage point on a grimy couch in their warehouse practice space. There has likely never been a more complementary environment in which to experience the band’s punishing brand of heavy metal.
The Road Will End—to be released officially on July 23 via Ironclad Recordings in the U.S., and Candlelight Records in the U.K., and locally at CD-release shows on July 11 (Café Coda) and July 19 (LaSalles)—is Armed for Apocalypse’s follow-up to their debut full-length album, 2009’s Defeat, an effort that reinforced a strong local fan-base and led to a successful tour of Europe following its release.
Already dripping sweat before playing a note, the group—made up of guitarist/vocalist Kirk Williams, guitarist/vocalist Cayle Hunter, bassist/vocalist Corey Vaspra and drummer Nick Harris—let their amps get hot, cooked up some sizzling guitar feedback, and with a click-click-click of Harris’s drum sticks, launched into the first four songs of their new record.
As is their reputation, the guys played all-out. The exertion of screaming like a banshee was etched in Williams’ face, and in the background, Harris’ dreadlocks flailed wildly with each monstrous drum fill. Catching the band in the confines of Café Coda or LaSalles might be brutal, but facing them while clinging to a warehouse couch positioned directly in front of their farcically massive Van Halen-sized wall of guitar amps on one of the hottest days of the summer feels—appropriately enough—apocalyptic. Even with toilet paper stuffed in my ears (to keep the blood inside), each ludicrously heavy, drop-G guitar riff had the clout of a wrecking ball to the brain.
Unlike many modern metal bands, Armed for Apocalypse’s new songs place little emphasis on over-the-top, shred-style guitar solos or progressive rock elements; rather, much of the music consisted of colossal end-of-the-world sludge-metal riffage. Of note was a particularly sludgy number, “The Well.” About three minutes in, a clean, melodic chord progression leads to an extensive vamping section, which builds into an ultra-powerful reiteration of the same melody made about 10 times heavier the second time around.
The band members insist The Road Will End represents a significant step forward as they’ve better defined their sound—and the songs are simply “way better,” Harris said.
“These songs are so much better [than those of Defeat] because we’ve gotten better at life and knowing how to interact together,” Harris said. “We’re in a van together a lot of the time, sleeping in random, uncomfortable places. You just get better at being together, and that also comes across in there,” he said, gesturing to their warehouse practice space.
“We know what we’re going for more, what our roles are, and what sort of band we are,” Williams agreed.
Having taken a considerable amount of time off from shows and touring for the recording process, Vaspra said there were periods of inactivity the group found discouraging.
“How many times have we been in one of those periods where there’s just not much going on?” Vaspra asked his bandmates. “It’s just like, ‘What’re we doing? Where are we going?’ But once we’re putting out an album, the ball starts rolling down the hill, getting bigger and bigger.”
“There were months when nobody would contact us for anything—maybe [just] to play the occasional show,” Hunter said, adding that with the July 23 release date fast approaching, “all of a sudden, it’s like, there’s always a new album review, a new press release, a new interview.”
Ultimately, the group hopes to quit their day jobs in favor of becoming full-time metal dudes, though they acknowledge a few breaks are needed in order for that to happen.
“That’s the goal for any band,” Hunter said. “You have to take it in stages. Our first goal is to get the record out, get it heard, then to get the best shows and tours we possibly can. You have to re-evaluate where you are at every step. We’d love to be a working band, but it’s extremely hard.
“We’re closer now than we ever have been before.”