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Armageddon - Armageddon CD (album) cover

ARMAGEDDON

Armageddon

 

Heavy Prog

3.25 | 41 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

stefro
Prog Reviewer
3 stars A veritable super-group made up of former members of the British blues-based acts Steamhammer and The Yardbirds, American heavy proggers Captain Beyond and classical folk-rock exponents Renaissance, Armageddon were one of those promising outfits whose line-up looked great on paper yet for various reasons failed to truly develop their exciting potential. Only one album was produced - 1975's self-titled 'Armageddon' - and the group split after less than a year thanks to a destructive cocktail of personal issues and disappointing sales.

An intriguing blend of bruising proto-metal riffs, progressive rock and heavy psychedelic blues, Armageddon was in some respects an album slightly ahead of it's time, prefiguring the 1980s rise of heavy metal whilst also stealing a march on the punk explosion that was just around the corner. Featuring Keith Relf(harmonica, vocals), Martin Pugh(guitar), Bobby Caldwell(drums) and Louis Cennamo(bass), this was a group very much in the mould of hard-rockin' mid-seventies acts such as Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Quatermass and Deep Purple, only this quartet placed more emphasis on creating ambitious, progressive-style song-suites, a stylistic streak showcased on an impressive debut album containing just five interlocking pieces. As a result, 'Armageddon' proves to be an occasionally rather frustrating listen, yet there are many rewards for those who take the time to explore what is essentially an epic re-branding of British prog-rock.

Recorded in L.A., this is a deceptively complex, multi-layered album that demands multiple listens - the typical musical onion if you will - though it is not without its longeurs. The album starts with the quickfire riffery of 'Buzzard', Martin Pugh and Bobby Caldwell feeding off each other in a dynamic guitars-and-drums duel, before making way for the delicate intro of the atmospheric 'Silver Tightrope'. A nicely melodic and surprisingly tender track, 'Silver Tightrope' features a slower pace that almost belongs to another album, Keith Relf's yearning vocals undercut by twinkling keyboards and a sky-searching Clapton-esque solo from Pugh. Rather perversely it seems(this is a heavy rock album after all) 'Silver Tightrope' proves to be arguably the strongest track on the album, though it does eventually burst into heavier life during its fiery closing stages. However, it's a stand-alone piece.

Both the brisk 'Paths & Plains & Future Gains' - the album's shortest piece at four-and-a-half minutes - and the following 'Last Stand Before' revert back to the original, fast-paced metallic blueprint, before the album's crowning achievement, the epic four-part closer 'Basking In The White Of The Eye', takes the album to a different level altogether. A highly-charged proto-metal workout featuring extraordinary drumming from Caldwell, this final piece injects a strong dose of rocked-up blues into the equation, gathering together elements from each of it's four predecessors for a spectacularly muscular - and strangely mystical - blast of early progressive metal.

A mixture of pioneering blues-based heavy rock, epic soloing, crushingly powerful rhythms and earthy psychedelia, 'Armageddon' is a genuinely innovative - and rather original - statement that probably proved a touch rich for the American mid-seventies audience it was supposedly aimed at. The album fared little better in Europe, though thankfully it has survived through the ages to find a new set of fans in the 21st century. Maybe some it's lengthy individual pieces simply take too long to reach their sonic destinations, yet for those who can take the pace 'Armageddon' should prove an exhilarating listen. A flawed musical mixture then, but a brave one with much to recommend it all the same. STEFAN TURNER, STOKE NEWINGTON, 2012

stefro | 3/5 |

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