Review: Armor for Sleep – The Rain Museum

By the year 2009, it seemed that Armor for Sleep had everything working out for them. In the space of eight years, they built up a loving and loyal fanbase, consistently toured with the likes of Fall Out Boy, Saosin, and more, and even released their third album ‘Smile for Them’ on a major record label. In short, the band seemed unstoppable. However, on the 28th of October 2009, everything changed when the group announced that they were splitting up. Except for a few one-off shows in 2012 and 2015, it felt as if the band had fully run its course. But then, on the 24th of February 2020, the band finally reunited for good, announcing a fifteenth-anniversary tour (which was ultimately pushed back due to Covid), and the subsequent vinyl reissues of their much-beloved second album ‘What To Do When You Are Dead’. But little did anyone know that during the Covid lockdowns, singer Ben Jorgensen was busy at work, secretly writing a brand new album.

And the result is the group’s incredible fourth record ‘The Rain Museum’ – a concept album about a post-apocalyptic world where weather is now non-existent, and any fragments or relics of the years before civilisation crumbled are kept in a museum for all to see. The idea of another concept album was thought up shortly after ‘What To Do When You Are Dead’ was released, though their record label thought it would be a bad idea to release it directly after another concept album, so it was ultimately shelved. Technically speaking, it means that this album was seventeen years in the making, and frankly, it’s about time this finally came out!

Even though the album is a fictional story about a desert world, certain lyrics sound as if they were written in real-time, describing the world in the current day. Like on the fifth track ‘In This Nightmare Together’, where Jorgensen sings “What if this whole thing’s just been a bad dream?/We’re really sleeping, have we just been dreaming?” – some people may feel that they can relate this lyric to how they’ve lived in the Coronavirus pandemic, acting as a burning question that we’ve all asked ourselves at least once since it all began. One of the strongest songs on the album has got to be ‘See You on the Other Side’ – it really feels like a true homage to their earlier work, as it starts off with an atmospherically dreamy guitar riff, which then ascends and builds up into an anthemic emo punk chorus that should, and will, resonate well with fans of both the 2000s-era pop punk, as well as today’s current-era pop punk.

Towards the end of the album (and the story), everyone decides to drown themselves inside the Rain Museum, as they cannot face the realities of the world that they currently live in. “I’m gonna swim so far away/Past the point of no return, rather drown than watch it all burn” is a lyric taken from the aptly-titled ‘Rather Drown’, a track that is so beautifully reverberated and evocative that it almost makes you feel as if you are drowning in the song. As the final track ‘Spinning Through Time’ begins, we’re greeted by a dark and melancholic piano melody that sounds scarily mysterious and, yet, oddly intriguing. It’s also very fitting that the record begins with a piano on the title track, and then ends with a piano for the closing track – it’s as if it’s musically tying the story together in one complete package.

If there are two things I’ve learned from this album, it’s that:

1) Their record label made a HUGE mistake in initially denying the idea for this album.

2) Even after a decade and a half of no new music, Armor for Sleep have definitely NOT lost their creative flair.

As a whole, ‘The Rain Museum’ is simply nothing short of perfection. It’s got a story that pulls you in right from the get-go and backs it up with some of the best music that the quartet have released to date. It’s classic AFS, and it’s like they never really left in the first place.

Available September 9th via Rude Records (UK/EU)/Equal Vision Records (ROW), more information here.

Review – Joe Richardson

Photo credit – Blair Todd

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