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The Crimson Armada - "Guardians" (CD)

The Crimson Armada - "Guardians" CD cover image

"Guardians" track listing:

1. Guardian (5:36)
2. A Filthy Addiction (4:59)
3. The Sound, The Flood, The Hour (4:30)
4. In The Eyes Of God (4:15)
5. The Serpents Tongue (4:20)
6. Revelations (2:44)
7. Desecrated (4:03)
8. The Final Words (5:07)
9. The Architect (5:24)
10. Outro (0:35)

Reviewed by on January 5, 2010

"It is a shame that music with this much potential is shadowed by the lyrics. "

The Crimson Armada has been making a name for themselves recently by playing shows with As Blood Runs Black, The Black Dahlia Murder, and at clubs all over the Midwestern United States. Combining a number of in-vogue metal styles, The Crimson Armada is best labeled as progressive deathcore. Their first full length, “Guardians,” is a pretty decent effort musically that shows good promise, but the thing that stands out most about the band is their lyrical content.

The music itself is pretty strong. Combining death and black metal in the same vein as The Black Dahlia Murder, The Crimson Armada crafts some good songs. The title track is an excellent collection of searing guitar leads, gutter-born rhythms, and Saud Ahmed’s alternating shrieks and growls. “The Serpents Tongue” is a striking combination of lilting piano melodies, brutal breakdowns, and stripped to the bone black metal. “Revelations” is break-neck paced and heavy like a head-crushing anvil. The album is pretty full of good moments and strong songwriting, and the band never gets caught up in trying to do too much. There are certainly progressive elements, but the focus stays on the black and death metal assault, and it is ultimately effective and enjoyable. The whole album, however, plays under the specter of the lyrical content, which is a shame.

As a critical metal listener I don’t spend too much time focused on lyrical content - much of it is pretty standard stuff. And let’s face it, there aren’t many Bob Dylan-types penning black metal shriek-a-thons nowadays. But The Crimson Armada promotes “a positive spiritual message through their music and meaningful lyrics going beyond the trend of broken relationships or pure brutality.” To clarify, their lyrics are wholly based on Christian theology and social perspectives. The refrain from the album opener (and title track), puts it quite succinctly: “God, you’ll show me what it’s like to be alive.”

But the band is a Christian metal band that doesn’t want the moniker. They have been plying the company line of just wanting to be normal dudes that happen to be religious Christians ever since they were signed by Metal Blade. Whether it is an attempt by Metal Blade to try and keep the band from being pigeonholed before they can appeal to non-Christian audiences, or to try and appear religiously non-confrontational, it just doesn’t hold water.

By constantly talking about how they don’t want to be viewed at as a wholly Christian band, that is exactly what The Crimson Armada accomplishes; search for some interviews online and it is quickly clear the depths they explain themselves to. Now being dedicated Christians is fine, and they are free to write about whatever they like. But the lyrical themes and focus on the message keeps coming up, be it specific lyrics that float through Ahmed’s blackened shriek, the first paragraph of the promotional materials or the first question in an interview. The media kit says “combining their diverse influences and their spiritual messages encrypted within the lyrics.” Well it isn’t exactly encrypted, and if the band could either come clean about their religious fervor instead of trying to play it down, or just not talk about it at all, it would be welcome.

It is a shame that music with this much potential is shadowed by the lyrics. There aren’t any problems writing about religious Christianity, and it certainly is a topic that has much potential and depth. But “Christian Rock” has a social stigma, at least here in the U.S.A., and The Crimson Armada makes the lyrical themes the focal point whether they mean to or not; it is the potential-filled music that should take center stage. “Our message is to show the world that we as a group of friends and believers in God can play death-metal and still be considered religious and down to earth dudes,” says guitarist Kyle Barrington in one interview. I wish that were true.

Highs: The music is fast, fierce and heavy. The title track and “Revelations” are particularly good.

Lows: The lyrical themes overpower any chance the music has of standing on its own.

Bottom line: Excellent black and death music that can’t escape God’s shadow.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)