I can't help but think of how the past four Arch Enemy albums had sounded if Johan Liiva had remained with the band. If his work in Nonexist and Hearse has anything to say, they would have kicked a little more ass than they did. Hearse is basically a death'n'roll band, in the vein of Entombed's Wolverine Blues, but with a few tweaks. Armageddon, Mon Amour is the third album, and a damned fine one if you give it the chance to rock you to the core.
"Mountain of the Solar Eclipse" gives a swift kick to the cylinder with death-tosterone fueled punkish rock riffs, feathered in Liiva's mix of brutal grunts and some offset snarls. The lyrics are very rock'n'roll/rockabilly but with a dash of the metal mystique:
This ain't the stair to heaven for sure,
it just takes you to the devil woman's door.
this might just be the seventh gate,
yes, we're talking oppression, destruction and hate!
"Turncoat" opens with feedback over pounding bass line, then bursts out into some great dual leads and a grinding verse in pure Swedish old school death metal tradition. "Crops of Waste" is a very catchy track with its mix of heavy handed riffs and chorused clean guitars in the verse. "In Love and War" soars in with a majestic melodic hook over bludgeoning chords, then rocking the fuck out. Other favorites for me on this album are "Tools" with its bluesy breakdown riffs and the excellent "Play Without Rules" which sounds like something from Left Hand Path at times, but then includes some spoken word and organs. Raging.
The mix on this album sounds like any other professional Swedish offering: intense and just about perfect. The band really mixes it up, you could consider this a hybrid between Entombed's mid period, Desultory's Swallow the Snake, and Spiritual Beggars' bluesy stoner metal. If you're a fan of Liiva's hoarse vocals or the small death'n'roll sub-category of Swedish death, you should certainly check out Hearse, and this isn't a bad place to start.
Verdict: Win [8/10] (you are nothing but a wheel in our killing machine)