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Anarchangel - Without Armor
CD Reviews
Written by Sara Letourneau   
Monday, 17 December 2012
Anarchangel EP Review
Without Armor
Anarchangel - Without Armor

CD Info

2012

Self Released / United States
6 Tracks

English Lyrics



 

Ever since I joined Sonic Cathedral 4 years ago, I’ve enjoyed digging around my local metal scene (Boston, Massachusetts) for bands to share with our readers. So far, I’ve covered three female-fronted bands (Era For A Moment, Avariel, and Evince Ethos) from my home state. Now, it’s time for Anarchangel. This 3-year-old quintet from Boston creates a brand of melodic metal flavored by all kinds of influences and subgenres, and led by four – yes, four – different vocalists. Anarchangel’s music is so diverse that it’s impossible to compare them to other bands (especially female-fronted ones) without second-guessing the comparisons. But, that’s part of the fun of Without Armor, Anarchangel’s debut EP.

The best way to describe Without Armor is by pointing out its building blocks. All six tracks are defined by thick, grungy guitars; keyboard hooks and ambiances; and the four singers, led by keyboardist Anne Marie Cleary. Guitarists Pat Lydon and Kevin Mulkerrins and bassist Dierdre McLaren help out with background vocals as well as occasional leads. However, Cleary shines star-bright with a warm, robust voice that can reach soothing highs and crackle with attitude. Of course, none of this answers the question of what kind of metal Anarchangel performs. The music reflects the band’s broad spectrum of influences, from Tool and Led Zeppelin to Nightwish and Iron Maiden. So, is it alternative? Progressive? Straight-up heavy metal? In my opinion, the label that best fits the music is "melodic metal." After all, with four singers, voice and melody are essential to Anarchangel’s sound.

Because of its medley of metal, Without Armor covers more ground in 25 minutes than many full-length albums do. Even the variety on Anarchangel’s three heaviest tracks will surprise the listener. There’s the menacing psychedelia of "Monster," followed by the anthemic stomper "Good Vs. Evil," then by the slick yet groove-laden "Trojan Horse." "Monster" in particularly has a life of its own. It launches with loads of energy and grit, then slows down and sends out waves of guitar distortions and trippy ambiance before picking up speed again. I highly recommend listening to "Monster" through stereo speakers just to feel the full effect of its aesthetics.

The variety on Without Armor becomes more apparent when Anarchangel plays with dynamics. Both "Nightmares" and "Skinless" teem with contrasts but take different paths. With "Nightmares," the verses’ ghostly keyboards and foreboding lyrics hint at the all-out, headbanging discord that comes for the chorus. "Skinless," on the other hand, starts off as an acoustic guitar / piano ballad that swells with intensity and desperation as it carries on. Cleary’s convincing performance shows off her classical training as well as her ability to convey emotion. Her mix of clear-cut lyrics ("How can I forgive you / After all you’ve done to me?") with more poetic lines ("I foolishly wrapped my happiness in your arms / Blind leaps of faith without armor") echo the vulnerability portrayed throughout the song and help make it the EP’s glittering gem.

Overall, the songs on Without Armor have good bones and strong melodies. The bluesy ballad "Stare At The Sun" is the only one that barely reaches out to grab the listener’s interest; the rest command attention thanks to Anarchangel’s strengths. However, I feel like I should like this EP more than I do – and I’ve had the damndest time trying to describe those mixed feelings in words. Now I know it’s a reaction to the so-so mixing quality. It often brings the treble (think cymbals and snares) to the front and muddies the overall sound, sometimes drowning out the softer or lower-pitched vocals. This warping then magnifies any aesthetic flaws on the EP. For example, the listener can barely make out what Lydon and Mulkerrins are shouting during the chorus of "Nightmares," even when reading along with the lyrics. I feel a bit guilty faulting Anarchangel for this, though; few unsigned bands can afford the best technology for their recordings. But, you can’t ignore uncertainty when the mix quality affects your listening experience with music.

And if I can’t avoid complete honesty, then here’s my bottom line: I like Without Armor. I really do. It may be far from perfect, but debut albums or EPs are meant to be stepping stones. That’s the purpose of Without Armor for Anarchangel, and the promise I hear in the EP has convinced me to continue following the band. Their music’s uniqueness and astonishing homogeneity despite the myriad influences make it one of the most colorful releases I’ve come across all year. And, that homogeneity is what amazes me the most about Anarchangel’s music. How do the band members fit together so many seemingly unmatched puzzle pieces and create a vision that still makes sense when you listen to the EP from beginning to end? Maybe I’ll have to ask Anarchangel themselves. They don’t live – or play – that far away from me.

7.75 / 10

Best Songs: "Skinless," "Monster"
Recommended for fans of Tool, Evanescence, Lacuna Coil, and Halestorm

Without Armor is available for purchase through CD Baby, Amazon, and iTunes. You can also listen to Without Armor in its entirety at Anarchangel’s ReverbNation page.

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