Armed for Apocalypse
Ritual Violence

To this day, Defeat from California’s Armed for Apocalypse is one of the best and heaviest sludge albums I’ve ever reviewed. A meaty, filthy guitar tone with an almost doom/death metal backbone, it was and still is an incredibly heavy album. They followed that up with The Road Will End in 2018, a solid follow-up, and then an EP Pain Reader in 2018, which I missed.

So late in 2022, they retuned with a new length album, and frankly, I didn’t know they were still around, but boy do they let you know they are the fuck around with an absolutely crushing album of sludge metal.

Still in the High on Fire, The Abominable Iron Sloth (with whom AFA share guitarist Cayle Hunter) and Crowbar wheelhouse, but with a nastier edge, without any sort of ‘stonery’, blackened or swampy backdrop, just pure lean, mean fuzzed-out riff after riff of either plodding, stomping dirges or more urgent fiercely feral blasts.

With a tweaked lineup (notably new bassit Charlie Fischer and vocalist/guitarist Nate Burman) Ritual Violence is better than The Road Will End, itself a solid album. It matches Defeat’s levels of sheer, sludgy, filthy intensity. Burman brings a nastier sneer and bellow, the production is more lethal and everything is slightly less commercial than The Road Will End, which saw the band get a little softer.

Starting with “Under My Shame” through the ickily named “Full of Phlegm”,  and crumbling grooves of “Hourglass” and more urgent “Lifeless”  and ending with the album’s longest cut “Eternally Broken”, Ritual Violence delivers bite-sized but massive slabs of filthiness. The production is absolutely nasty, as are Nate Burman’s feral screams and shouts. There are a few atmospheric bridges here and there (i.e. “Live Through the Storm”, “Eternally Broken”) or some more punky faster numbers (“Flesh and Blood”, killer track “Foredoomed”- which also has the album’s only real “Southern” or “Swamp” stomp) to break up the feedback-drenched, tumbling, heaving heft but otherwise, this is a fucking shit storm of downturned slopes and sickly grooves.

The end result is a comeback album that’s worth the 9-year wait, and while not as high profile as other comebacks this year, is absolutely worth your time, and arguably one of heaviest sludge albums of the last few years.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
January 2nd, 2023

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