Reviewed: June 2020
Released: 2020, Black Lion Records
Reviewer: Kat Knite
Finnish melodic death metal band RE-ARMED strike again with their fourth full length album, ‘Ignis Aeternum’. Together since 2001, the band has undergone several lineup changes and released three previous albums in their two-decade long journey. The critical acclaim for their projects paired with ferocious showmanship has landed them gigs with many important artists in metal, as well as at European and Asian festivals such as Bloodstock Open Air, Suomi Feast, and Neurotic Death Fest. ‘Ignis Aeternum’ combines death metal and thrash with beautiful melodies and symphonic elements. The vocals are also somewhat cleaner than in past releases, allowing for cohesive and dynamic storytelling without losing the heaviness of their core.
RE-ARMED show a certain maturity, in an almost cinematic journey through the record. They explore themes of reflection, self-discovery, and acceptance of the multifaceted nature of life; the importance of having strength to reach in and retrieve your soul from depths which can be destructive. As said by them:
“A loose theme for the album is about positivity, a constant change and seeing life as it is at every level. It is a trip, a breathtaking view of life’s diversity.”
Epic, heavy, and choral: great descriptor words for the thrashing opener ‘Dive Within’. One thing the band definitely knows how to do well is a good breakdown. I felt like I travelled through this song with no slow start or chance to wonder in confusion where they were going with it. The message was clear, but atypical and interesting. A spoken word piece at the end left me feeling introspective and mysterious, just like life does in its curious grandiosity.
Between bass-driven motifs, twin and solo guitars, and technical-yet-tasteful drumming (‘Ode to Life’), it’s clear why the current lineup has worked well to create a polished and effective atmosphere. The contrast of Jouni Matilainen’s range, from a demon scream in his higher register to a darker, deeper growl, is exemplified on ‘Beyond the Horizon’, which demonstrates not only his skill, but the blend and chemistry between all bandmates.
Commonly heard are unusual and even pretty piano/synth intros and layers throughout, always followed by a build or sudden onset of heavy riffing, rough vocals, and soaring guitar solos. ‘Eager to Collapse’ includes a dream-like piano and ‘Words Left Unsaid’ opens with an uneasy and suspenseful string sequence, only for the song to be utterly amplified by the badass riff that follows! I see clearly the drama and dynamic force of RE-ARMED’s music.
My personal favourite is ‘The Hollow Lights’. To start, it feels as if I’m wandering through a woodland, looking through vast trees in the crisp air, as building synths indicate something epic to come. Guitar, bass, and drums enter full force like a monster in the forest – Mother Earth demonstrating her power! Natural selection makes its choices, the brutality of both human beings and the natural world battling, contrasting, and coexisting in the end. Yet another cool breakdown and awesome guitar solo move me, an undying and driven rhythm section to match. The distorted bass outro feels like a meaningful and subdued exit – a final walk towards the light.
Two songs that come off different from the rest are ‘Remain Unbounded’ and ‘Voyager’. The former starts slower than others, later picking up speed and giving it an ominous feel when layered with creepy male choral vocals. ‘Voyager’’s modern-sounding synths lend to the feeling that we’re not on planet Earth anymore. Instead, we’ve launched into outer space, examining the infinite possibilities of the universe. An open-minded and freeing thought that “It’s a one way trip to the stars – journey into the unknown” sums up the existential and agnostic end of the spectrum in this album.
As ‘Built to Last’, the final track, draws to a close with a pretty solo followed by acoustic guitar and synths, I’m left generally impressed by RE-ARMED’s thoughtful new release. In fact, the whole package is beautiful in its own right, even for someone who doesn’t typically go out of their way to listen to death or thrash metal. The cover artwork, by Romulo Dias, is dark, poetic, and beautiful, tying in with every concept of life explored on ‘Ignis Aeternum’.
Get your copy of ‘Ignis Aeternum’, set for worldwide release on June 5 via Black Lion Records on CD and digital formats.
‘Beyond The Horizon’ – Digital (Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, YT…)