Post hardcore has always had a bit of a flair for the melodramatic, and perhaps more so recently as bands like Defeater and other “melodic hardcore” associates continue to grow in popularity. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. After all it has given rise to bands such as Touché Amore who use the melodramatic to emphasize true emotion within their music. On the other side of that coin, however, are those bands that do not understand that melo drama is not a substitute for real music. This has given rise to an unfortunate number of clones within the post hardcore scene who are riding “the wave”, but doing so in a way that feels largely inauthentic and forced. Add to that crisp-clear production that eliminates any semblance of actual humanity in the recording process and you find most of the material with the tag “melodic hardcore” slapped on. Armed With Books falls somewhere between these two spots, and struggles to find where exactly they’ll end up.
From the get go, Armed With Books starts out on a pretty high note. The opening riff on “Charlatan” provides a nice atmosphere and is almost reminiscent of Envy, but too soon divulges into a bit too chuggy of a guitar part that feels awkward in the overall song as it gives no room for the atmosphere to grow. However what truly throws the song over is the vocalist who, while a good shout/screamer for the tone of the music, comes off a bit painfully cheesy with lyrics. They aren’t particularly bad per se, but listening to him try to shoe horn the word ideology into a rhythm of the song proves pretty uncomfortable and furthermore off sets whatever groove the song had going. Matters get even more awkward when half the band is screaming about half way through while he simply mutters his lines. Spoken word isn’t exactly uncommon territory for post hardcore bands but the section would certainly benefit much more from either choosing aggression with the shouting, or atmosphere with the spoken word. Instead it is a crowded, uncomfortable cluster of both that sort of just drones on until the song fades out. They had the right idea starting out, and most definitely could’ve properly fit in the more aggressive material, but ultimately jump the gun and create an odd jumble.
However where the band struggles on the beginning track they find their strengths on with tracks two and three. Both start fairly quiet, building into a fair roar by the middle, and ending with a nice drawn out descend back into the atmospheric. On their own, both tracks are good listens. The issue lies in the fact that they are right next to each other though, where ideas that normally would drive the songs and make them interesting instead become a bit redundant. By the time track four roles around, and it once again starts quiet, it doesn’t just redundant anymore, but down right lazy. At least with “Plain Sight” they take the idea of aggression burst presented on track one and redeem themselves, providing a much smoother transition into the roar. Pacing proves overall a weak point for Armed With Books, which is a bit disappointing seeing as they are clearly talented song writers.
On Honestly Honesty, Armed With Books struggles with exactly what their aims are and harm their song writing in the process. Ideas are there, and they understand the need for balance between the aggressive and the reflective with their style of post hardcore, but fail to ever truly deliver. What could be an interesting atmospheric part is instead gate crashed by too chuggy of a guitar tone, all before sporadically descending back into a clean, drawn out section. Add to this lyrics that often come off as cliche and this is a record that, while filled with potential, ultimately falls flat. Armed With Books has earned the right of a listen, and even future attention, but for now they need to strike a more comfortable balance within their own sound.