Italian gothic electro-rockers Army of the Universe first burst into the spotlight with their superb debut album Mother Ignorance, which also featured the slick and sexy vampiric visuals of their video “Lovedead” (check out our review and the video here). That album served a rich and spicy dish of catchy hooks with a creepy, otherworldly atmosphere, and I was looking forward to big things from them on this side of the Atlantic. Their follow-up EP is a major step in that direction: in addition to the band's core lineup of EDM producer TREBLA, vocalist Lord K and guitarist Dave Tavecchia, the band now counts industrial music icon Chris Vrenna (who also co-produced Mother Ignorance and whose own band Tweaker scored an honorable mention on our Best Albums of 2012 list) among their official lineup, which is fantastic news in my book. The title track also features guest vocals from Chibi, lead singer for world-famous gothic power-pop unit The Birthday Massacre.
The title track compliments the dark groove of “Lovedead” in many ways, with a simple framework of minimalist electro beats onto which the band secures thick, distorted synth bass patterns that capture the throb of pulsing hot blood. Even the guitar riffs are pinched and controlled in the verses, never stepping too far into the sound space of Lord's rushed-hushed vocals, which creates a feeling of barely-controlled urgency. His voice itself is tight and refined, with electronic filtering to give it a tense edge, but the passion behind it is allowed to ooze through in controlled measures. Chibi's contribution adds an element of warmth to Lord's more violent, primal sexuality, which peaks powerfully toward the song's conclusion. The song gets the remix treatment by Albert Vorne, with Chibi's clean vocals in the immediate foreground and drifting in and out between each stanza with airy analog synth washes. Without the muscular guitars and Lord's vocals, the track feels a bit cold and roomy, but the beat is sweet.
The collection is rounded out by two strong cuts that will presumably return as album versions later this year: The stripped-down sensibility of the title track is overthrown for a synth/guitar wall of sound in “Break The Walls,” with a frantic, up-tempo pattern that is guaranteed to get you up on your feet and a seriously heavy refrain; it proves once again that simple song structures work best for this band's groove. “The Weight of the World” has a more open, airy framework with a retro electronic beat and some eerie backward samples, bringing in the heavy guitars for a more rock-based chorus.
As a fan myself, I'm encouraged by this tasty preview of Army's next album (which should be due later this year, with the official title and drop date to be announced soon), and so far it sounds like the band has maintained a solid grip on the elements which make them unique – but they've also begun to expand their explorations into some cool new sonic territory, so I'm pretty stoked to hear where they're going with this. While we wait, Until the End can be found on Metropolis Records, and the band has also managed to top the sensual creepiness of the “Lovedead” video with this dreamy new clip for the title single, which accentuates the dark erotic vibe of the band's signature sound thanks the steampunk-flavored visuals of writing/directing team David Benedetti, Michele Bordellini and Ario Lockey. Dig it!