Blending a fantastically dark and rich musical tone with progressive, vibrant melodies – Arms Against took the first late night spot at Dundee Fringe by storm. The band had recently opened for indie rock giants Razorlight and James in their home city, and there was a real tangible sense of anticipation in the air as we entered a disused unit at the Keiller Shopping Centre to hear the band play. The five piece led us on a mythic journey over the hour, with tunes that balanced an almost orchestral and cinematic rhythmic quality with indulgently powerful vocals from every member of the band.
The band utilise an almost cult-like and clandestine pastiche of hums and huffs as a recurring motif in their music. Their progressive melodic anthems Dead Men Rise and Villian Am I None let rip with mesmerising chants providing a rich textured backdrop to the lead vocals. The lead vocals strip rising inflections in pitch and tone against intimate and rugged lyrics. The lyrical themes seem to implore an impending sense of something about to hit the audience which gives the music that cinematic edge.
I felt as though I could be listening to the soundtrack of a post-apocalyptic film, or a concept album following a jagged romance falling apart, and the fact that both feel just as reticent proves the kudos earnt in the band’s ability to create an unfixed yet still sharp atmosphere in their more strident tunes. Like gathering round a camp-fire after a hard day’s battle with the elements, you can really feel a tangible sense of exertion and effort to impress, entertain, and lead you down a gorgeously dark rabbit hole.
These contrast quite un-parochially with soulful, hymn-like ballads After Dark and In Cold Blood – here the humming and chanting motifs performed across the band’s members take on a hymn-like quality. The lyrics and central vocal performance take on a clearly more sentimental quality during these songs, which helps puncture the sense of impending calamity in the anthemic songs. The band really hold you throughout with the way they climb intensely toward the melodies, creating a grainy, grunge-like essence. It carries a wonderful sense of rhythmic purity despite the discordant and rebellious tempo deployed throughout.
I absolutely adored the additions from the keyboard, which rifle a real sense of curiosity – they range from synth-like climb-ups to accordion-esque folk melodies and what sounded like notes played on a triangle. These add to the theatrical nature of the whole affair, breathing life and a unique sense of atmospheric magic into the alternative rock genre. The bass-lines ring out against these elements, highlighted and rounded off by brushes and pertinent beats from the drums, which are performed almost ad-hoc, to fantastic effect.
I questioned whether this was really a sit-down gig – given we were sitting I would have loved to know a bit more about the band in the brief flashes between songs which were otherwise just filled with prep for the next song. These intervals could be tightened up to help add to that theatrical quality that is implicit in the band’s music. However, the flair and charisma of the group was never expended even by minor technical difficulties, meaning we were on their side throughout.
This performance is a cascading melodic triumph that hums with rich spirit. The band are clearly destined for the good and the great, and the sooner they get there the better.
Recommended Drink: Arms Against is best paired with a Dark ‘n’ Stormy – rich rum marrying with smoky, effervescent flavour.