When you take a pop rock record and push it to 12, you may expect something close to what The Armed did with ULTRAPOP, however with Perfect Saviors you’re certain to still be in for some surprise. After the success of putting full thrusters on every single aspect, they have come to utilize their maximalist sonic arrangements in a much more restrained manner. Over the course of shedding their frenzied hardcore beginnings, they have learned how to make abrasion a useful tool. Pairing that with time spent getting familiar with pop sensibility over their last two records, The Armed has hit a completely individual stride of near absolute accessibility with still proudly prominent jagged edges. As if, after blowing all the speakers in the world, the only option was to then rehearse a dance amongst the shards.
When it comes to the idea of accessibility using very pop-focused ideas, The Armed definitely still play their cards their own way. Perfect Saviors feels best described as an arena rock record, with soft ballads (“Sport of Measure”, In Heaven”, “Public Grieving”) bookending raucous anthems that rip along at breakneck speeds (“FKA World”, “Liar 2”), and tracks built for nightclub scenes in the Blade remake (“Patient Mind”, “Everything’s Glitter”). However, rather than just the idea of a record deserving an audience of people sizable enough to warrant an arena, it is also the sound of the arena itself. The concrete construction, technical difficulties, and the bloody reward of performance at max ability and showmanship. It is hard-hitting, blissful, brazen, and leaving it all before you.
Containing multitudes in its massive synth swells, huge percussion and auxiliary arrangements, and guitar treatment that is larger than life, the album builds its instrumental section with the utmost care. No detail is too small, and no space is too big for them to fill. Over all the writhing components underneath, the vocal performances are shared between multiple personnel that all came ready to impress, ranging from belted notes to piercing shrieks to gravelly mumbles. With guests including members of Queens of the Stone Age, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Beck, Nine Inch Nails, Julien Baker, and more, The Armed use Perfect Saviors to expand upon the empire the band have built on their own.
The lyrics on the record are almost antithetical to the title, almost as if intentionally misleading you in its content much like the band has misled its audience throughout its history. Overflowing with melancholy, the desire to hide, and the white lies we tell ourselves and others to make us feel okay even if only for a moment, it is an examination of playing a part that feels required of you in the world. At times it is heart-wrenching, but other times has a potent swagger that almost taunts any notion of doubt someone could have. In these moments of bipolar sentiments is where the true shine of the record is. It is almost hidden, layered between fuzzy effects and bouts of roaring feedback, but deep in there is a tender heart encased in gold and adorned with flecks of dirt and shattered gemstones to ward off anyone not ready to truly engage with it.
Alan Moulder’s mixing is a crown jewel in this aria of crystalline despair. Creating the balance in all this madness and pushing forward an end result that would stand comfortably in a lineup of Era Vulgaris’, The Fragile’s, and Any Minute Now’s. The Armed are, well, armed to take over the world with an album that packs a punch as strong as iconic stalwarts their contemporary.
As a whole, it is shown that Perfect Saviors has reinvented the idea of perfection. It is in the dichotomy and plurality of emotion and sound that we experience real, tangible, limitless perfection. No light without the dark, no joy without grief, no value in truth without lies, and no beauty without destruction.
Perfect Saviors is out today on Sargent House, and can be streamed and ordered here. Watch the Iggy Pop-starring video for “Sport of Form” featuring Julien Baker below and catch them on their upcoming tour dates.
October 19 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
October 21 – San Francisco, CA @ The Great American Music Hall
October 23 – Portland, OR @ Revolution Hall
October 24 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
November 16 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
November 17 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
November 18 – Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
December 15 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrew’s Hall
December 16 – Chicago, IL @ Metro Chicago