|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 70%|
|Running Time: 51:16|
Armor Of God, with its penchant for amalgamating multiple forms of metal and dual female lead vocal approach, will put a smile on your face. The group’s history traces to 2011 and the goal of founding member and guitarist Orlando Vicente to ‘spread a positive message through heavy and uplifting music’ that is based upon ‘a higher conscience, respect, service and above all of infinite love’ (as taken from the Armor Of God press material). Adopting the Armor Of God moniker after starting to rehearse with drummer Henry Leonardo, Vicente went on to recruit bassist Luis Martinez, with whom he previously worked in other Orlando, Florida based bands, and second guitarist Rimond Slaathaug. He later completed the bands line up with co-front women Karla Danielle, who earlier had recorded an album with the Puerto Rican group La Cooperative, and veteran church vocalist Diana Murillo.
The Armor Of God December of 2015 full length debut Dark Face Of Greed that followed resides upon a foundation of traditional and classic metal (heavily rooted in the NWOBHM aesthetic) and power metal (of the US variety as opposed to the European form with its classical, epic and symphonic aspects). Periodic leanings towards eighties influenced melodic metal round things out. Initial groups to come to mind in terms of comparison include Reign (also featuring dual female harmony vocals) and Barnabas (Nancy Jo Mann, anyone?), keeping in mind Armor Of God might equal the two in terms of the guitar driven but not outside the box progressiveness. A heavier version to Ransom or fellow Florida natives Arsenal might be the better indicator of the Armor Of God sound or perhaps even Ordained Fate and Ancient Prophecy but not quite as aggressive or thrash based either way.
Half the ten Dark Face Of Greed tracks are good as it gets as far as the presented genres are concerned. Getting things underway is the groups “Armor Of God” signature track, a mid-paced and guitar harmony impelled heavy hitter in which light power metal undertones combine with a soaring if not angelic refrain. Guitars move to the forefront for the trenchant instrumental moments. “Faith Hope And Love” gives rise to the albums best combination of heaviness and the accessible. Also mid-paced, it contrasts darker and portentous overtones with a vocal melody driven chorus that touches upon the commercial. Ultimately, the two serve to showcase the smooth and refined talents of soprano front women Karla Danielle and Diana Murillo.
“Beneath The Gates Of Splendor” kicks up the tempo to a near speed metal frenzy. The resulting furious impetus yields a direct as it gets guitar attack reeking of traditional metal and assailing male backing vocals that make a contentious statement. Albums title track proves another classic metal-laced barnburner, hulking with its fast paced and bruising penchant but every bit angst-laden from the incensed feel to the expansive instrumental moments. Highlight to the two is how they make the explosive guitar abilities of Orlando Vicente and Rimond Slaathaug the focal point.
“The Rage Of The Angels” represents this reviewer’s choice cut. And not just due to featuring the name of a cool band from the eighties in its title, but also from how it takes a varied approach, with slower and more stalwart moments aligning with the groups propensity for outbursts of all out speed metal flair. A near perfect emphasis on traditional and power metal themes with a light progressiveness is the upshot. Luis Martinez underscores things with his perseverant bass work.
Three others I rate a notch below in falling within above average to very good territory. My favorites include “Bread Of Life”, a heightened and intense piece full of more abundant double kick drum and a celestial vocal harmony driven refrain, and “Remain In The Light”, uplifting from its front to back elevated tempo and presence of aggressive (if not borderline extreme) male backing vocals. “To The Heavens With God” proves every bit stalwart, up-tempo from the galloping guitar riffs (that prove scintillating as it gets) and acerbic if not biting passages (which also touch upon the extreme) that traverse its length.
I also hit the skip button a couple times. I struggle with “Hey Lord”, a slow and mood filled plodder that comes across somewhat flat with its uneven male backing vocals and chorus on the so-so side of things. It deserves note that the album closes to a Spanish version of “Hey Lord” entitled “Hey Señor”. Likewise, “Eternal” does not click with me either with its tempo on the tepid side of things and another chorus in which I remain lukewarm despite repeat play. The song does feature, however, a lead guitar break of decent length.
Production holds its own for an independent release. No, not a great deal of big budget polish, but also no overriding thinness or muddiness either. Packaging is solid as well, with eye-catching cover art, and multi page mini-booklet that includes band photos and easy to read lyrics and liner notes.
Song titles leave little doubt as to the faith-based premise of the Armor Of God prose. “Armor Of God” stands out in this capacity:
Be strong in the Lord
And in His mighty power
Put on the whole armor of God
So you can stand firm against evil
Out battle’s not against flesh and blood
But against the rulers of darkness in this world
Put on the whole armor of God
So you can stand your ground in the evil day
As does “Faith Hope And Love”:
Trying to get through
Reach in your heart you’ll find a star
Shining its way through
Temple of shadows never can stand
In the way of love
Listen to me and learn to be free
In faith hope and love
“The Rage Of The Angels” draws upon the Book of Revelation:
The moon has turned to blood
The stars have fallen from the sky
And you can see the oceans
Rising up to desperate cries
But everything’s not lost
The secret’s been revealed my friend
Two thousand years ago
The holy words were said
“Beneath The Gates Of Splendor” includes my favorite lyrics:
Beyond the gold wide open door
Beneath the gates of splendor
Reveals the majesty
It is your destiny
Rain fallen hear the thunderstorm
The sea waves beating down the shore
It’s just another rainy night
Don’t be afraid of what you’ll find
If I have anything constructive to offer in regards to Dark Face Of Greed is the somewhat sameness feel to its material. It would have made for the more diverse release, for instance, if the group had mixed things up in terms of its songwriting by including a ballad or AOR-ish tinged piece, either which would have worked well with the talented female lead vocalists. In similar fashion, stretching and delivering an epic that approaches ten minutes (in the same manner as the aforementioned Reign) or at the minimum an instrumental would also allow the double guitar attack to shine.
Still, The Dark Face Of Greed adds up to a very good debut album from a band that shows a great deal of promise. When Armor of God hits the nail on the head songwriting wise it does not get much better- again, as far as the presented styles are concerned. That said, a couple skip buttons (in my opinion) hold the album back and prevents a higher score, noting the better material resides within 80% to 90% territory. Overall, Armor Of God has a good formula in featuring a pair of female vocalists backed by a solid foundation of musicianship. The future looks bright for this talented five-piece unit!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Armor Of God” (5:06), “Beneath The Gates Of Splendor” (5:16), “Bread Of Life” (4:10), “Remain In The Light” (3:45), “Dark Face Of Greed” (4:18), “Hey Lord” (4:57), “The Rage Of The Angels” (4:59), “Faith Hope And Love” (4:40), “Eternally” (5:11), “To The Heavens With God” (3:46), “Hey Señor” (4:57)
Karla Danielle - Lead Vocals
Diana Murillo - Lead Vocals
Orlando Vicente - Guitars
Rimond Slaathaug - Guitars
Luis Martinez - Bass
Henry Leonardo - Drums