Armoured Angel
Hymns of Hate

Back in the early ’90s, Australia’s Armoured Angel seemed poised for greatness. After garnering a cult following throughout the ’80s with their energetic brand of speed/thrash, the Australian three piece — consisting of twin brothers, Joel (drums, vocals) and Matt Green (guitar), and founding member, Glen “Lucy” Luck (bass) — had evolved into something much heavier and unique. They released two memorable EPs in ‘92 and ‘94 through Id (a division of Polygram) and a professionally produced music video; toured with Morbid Angel, Carcass, and Bolt Thrower; founded Australia’s largest metal festival, Metal for the Brain; and was about to record their full-length debut, which was set to be produced by Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman of all people. But, things fell apart when the twins decided to leave the band before the album could be completed. Lucy went on to record a different full-length, Angel of the Sixth Order, with two new members in ’99. Despite being a great album in its own right, it came too late, was under-promoted, and didn’t quite live up to the potential of the band’s previous work. The group called it quits soon after and faded into obscurity. Subsequently, all of their releases became impossible to find. But, thanks to Abysmal Sounds, all of the Green brothers material is finally available again on this two-disc set.

The first disc contains their two EPs, Stigmartyr and Mysterium. These recordings are where they made the transition from rather generic speed/thrash to their distinct take on death metal characterized by strong, driving mid- to thrash-paced rhythms and a subtle classic metal slant. Their approach was professional, concise, and accessible, but with a stern, evil tone that even the most underground aficionado could respect. Some comparisons could be made to early Samael and Rotting Christ in terms of atmosphere and riffing style, but with a beefier production. Even though everything has been remastered, you can tell it was recorded in the early ‘90s. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A little more separation of the instruments could have been nice, but it all sounds pretty good overall. Despite the two-year difference, the two EPs work fairly well together with the Stigmartyr tracks sounding only slightly more raw and primitive. Although, it’s obvious that they really hit their stride on Mysterium. These six tracks just ooze confidence as they alternate between sturdy mid-paced marching and aggressive thrashing. The obvious stand-out is their hit song (if you can call it that), “Enigmatize,” which is one of the more memorable and addictive death metal songs ever recorded. If it doesn’t make your head bang involuntarily, your ears must be broken. The doomy, Sabbathian instrumental closer, “Elegy,” hints at what was to come next for the band.

The second disc is comprised of their ‘80s demos, Wings of Death and Communion, followed by their unreleased 1995 demo. It would’ve made more stylistic sense to include the ‘95 demo material on the first disc after the Mysterium tracks, but I can understand wanting to keep all of the demos together. Their ‘80s material is a competent mix of American speed metal and German thrash, but it’s not really anything to write home about. Song titles like “Crush, Kill, Destroy” and “My Fist, Your Face” should give you some idea of what to expect. They’re fun for the nostalgia factor, but nothing you haven’t heard before. However, the last four tracks on this disc are something you’ve most likely never heard before. These are part of what was supposed to be their full-length debut. “Thy Blood Eterne” hits your years with a sound that’s unusual even by today’s standards. It has the vocals and spirit of death metal, but the riffs and groove of stoner rock. It’s what Kyuss might sound like if they had tried their hand at satanic death metal. It could also be compared to what Xysma was doing on their first two full-lengths, but with a more sinister attitude. Just when you’ve settled into this new approach, “Gulka” kicks you in the teeth with two minutes of the most aggressive material the band ever wrote. Then it’s back to more stoner death with “Way of Sorrows.” They take another surprising turn on the final track, “Oriar,” which is replete with keys and a folky feel that would’ve fit in perfectly on the Amorphis classic, Tales from the Thousand Lakes. If these final four tracks are any indication, the complete album would’ve been groundbreaking.

The liner notes include lyrics for every track and several promo shots of the band, but unfortunately there’s no history or words from the band members like you get in some other compilations of this kind. It would be interesting to read their thoughts on these recordings. The inclusion of the music videos for “Enigmatize” and “Elegy” (which looks more like a making-of video) on the first disc was a nice touch, though.

It’s a shame these guys weren’t able to stick together long enough to fully realize their potential. If they had, they might now be mentioned in the same breath as Entombed, Amorphis, Sentenced, and other bands that pushed death metal in new directions in the mid-’90s. At least we now have this chronicle of their developmental years to enjoy and speculate on what could’ve been.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Adam Palm
January 2nd, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: vugelnox

    A very underrated Aussie metal gem! Looks like the only material I own on this comp is the Stigmartyr EP so I’ll def have to pick up a copy!


  2. Commented by: Jordan Itkowitz

    why have you waited so long to write for us Adam? your reviews so far have been super-detailed, well-researched and entertaining, great job on this one


  3. Commented by: gordeth

    Thanks, Jordan! That means a lot because I’ve always been a fan of your writing.


  4. Commented by: Luke_22

    I’ve only heard snippets of the band over the years, which is a bit slack cause I am an Aussie, but they have a lot of respect in the metal community here. Lucy used to run a great independent record store in my home city until it went the wayside. Great review as well.


  5. Commented by: Weirwolfe

    Fantastic death metal band, my absolute favourite. I saw them once back in the 90’s in Newcastle Australia before the Green brothers split. They were a great live band too. Totally stoked to get all their stuff from this lineup resmastered in one set. Can’t wait to hear the ‘lost’ album tracks. If you haven’t heard the album Angel of the Sixth Order try and track a copy down. It’s pretty good too. Great review.


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