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It's rare to hear black metal like this these days, and there is even less of a chance to hear it arising from a country like Sweden, whose black scene, I thought, had signed over their creative birthright years ago to the imps of Dark Funeral's sound. Armagedda is primarily a very traditional black metal band, so you shouldn't be surprised if I start pulling names like Bathory, Darkthrone, etc. out of nowhere, even though the elements that they take from those bands are now so old and antiquated that I doubt many will understand what I'm referring to... this isn't the Darkthrone of yesterday that I'm talking about, it's 'Unholy Black Metal' matched with tastes of Satyricon's first album, the thin, treble guitar of Rob Darken and most of the rest of the Polish movement (it really makes me think of Gontyna Kry, actually), a vocal attack that tempts me to use words like 'bestial' and 'monstrous' even though I know better: a harsh wailing and raw-throated screaming bursting out over the rest of the music in ritualistic patterns, quite similar to early Judas Iscariot or Sarcophagus... in other words, a very, very unoriginal, stereotypical sound overall. However, I know that Akhenaten's main pursuit in founding a label and searching for bands to feature on it is not to construct some kind of genre-defying roster that will be pushing music into new realms... what he mainly seems to be doing in finding bands - much like his own, Judas Iscariot - that have tapped into the primal spirit of black metal, that sound of Norway circa the early '90s, and which would rather create good albums in that tradition rather than give in to the 'progressive' tendencies of the current scene. So they are reactionary, these bands, as they look to the past as being the measure of what is good and worth reaching towards, but this aim or main focus isn't something I would censure. Black metal has died, that we know... especially in those countries where it formerly found so much energy and dark inspiration, and you can't blame these bands for trying to resurrect something that means so much to them. If you take Armagedda's music in this way, as being constructed around elements that are tried, true, and timeless, this is a worthy addition to those slices of grim darkness which possessed our souls almost a decade ago - it fits in with the rest of those genre-defining albums. When I listen to this group, Armagedda, I am not exactly moved to think of the future of this genre in positive terms - usually the re-creation of what has come before, nostalgia, is a main sign of the ending decadence of a movement, but I think this group (and the others on this label) would certainly argue this: maybe they would say they are just trying to stick very close to what they consider to be the 'pure' sounds of the genre, the characteristics that make black metal effective and really worth listening to...
Throughout the stretch of this album Armagedda are able to come up with some really stirring, epic riffing, a style and tone that mixes the nostalgia I mentioned above with either midpaced structural melodies that allow for lucid dreaming of battlefields and windswept mountain landscapes, lightless forests and frozen streams, a glint and glimmer of ice-cold steel, marching, galloping rhythms of war interlaced with melancholy arpeggios and echoing, ringing full chords, or fast-strummed progressions flying like ravens over these same places of battle, as harbingers or carriers of death... there is a noticeable thin quality in the guitar sound, but that is because I believe this material was tracked in one take (it certainly sounds that way) with minimal overdubs or corrections, if any, and it sounds like there is only one guitarist in this band, even though the line-up says they have two. The production quality on this recording differs from song to song... it's strange, which makes me think either that they recorded it in different places at different times, or that this is CD is a collection of earlier works...
Anyway, this is traditional, simple, Darkthrone-influenced black metal, as I mentioned already, full of violent energy, and it certainly touches on the ancient spirit of the genre, capturing something that few groups can find anymore...from that you will probably know if you want to seek it out or not. Personally, I like a lot of the material on this disc, and I think Armagedda might really give us something worth keeping on their next release if they strengthen their style a little more and spend more time on balancing or filling out their guitar sound... especially if they experiment a bit and see if they can add in some personal elements to their backwards-looking aesthetics.
The main problem with these bands, or the pitfall they usually hit unawares, I think, is idea that there isn't anything original to be found in this kind of sound, this approach. Going back and referencing what has come before in the hope of creating a 'classic' album doesn't necessarily mean that one has to stay completely along the lines of what Norway produced - even with those bands there is a lot of room in the style which they never explored, as they left the necro for progressive material too soon, in my opinion.
In the meantime, this is a good album, a strong start for the band, and (I think) a more than adequate demonstration of this record label's staying power. I would recommend it mainly for those of you who are disappointed with the direction of the black metal scene over the last five or six years, and who would like to see a return to form on the part of the Europeans...
Armagedda are hailing from Sweden and here we’re dealing with their first full-length work named “The Final War Approaching”, a title that could spontaneously bring to mind Revelations, a topic widely examined by acts of this genre. Despite their origin, they do not adopt the Swedish sound formed by bands like Marduk, Dark Funeral or even Dissection. Instead, they seem to lean towards the adjoining Norway with compositions that inevitably bring to mind groups like Darkthrone.
From the very beginning there is no room for any doubt about the musical approach of this work. This is straight-forward black metal that pays homage to the glorious days of the early 90s, and actually the Swedish achieve their goal pretty easily. Raw music with some interesting variety in riffs such as the atmospheric first minutes of “Skogens Mörka Djup” and the more black ‘n’ roll approach of “Unholy Sacrifice”. Actually these two tracks are the ones I enjoyed the most. Drums follow the example of the guitar by changing tempos and offering some blastbeats where necessary.
All my previous impressions are solidified even more by the soulless vocals that bring to mind the voice of Satyr at some points while the bass hasn’t a very dynamic presence, a fact rather expected to be honest. Production is deliberately raw since this way it serves the purpose of this release, to provide a grim result full of hatred. Concerning the lyrics, as mentioned above, they couldn’t possibly cope with any different subject than anti-Christianity and misanthropy.
To sum up, this is not a bad release and it didn’t make me feel bored to the least. But on the other hand, it does not offer anything innovative and is not so overwhelming that I would repeatedly listen to it for days. Armagedda hold the banner of black metal with pride and that’s all that matters in this case. Fans of the traditional sound will be satisfied, that’s for sure.
Originally written for: The Lair of Storfeth
The Final War Approaching is the first full-length album from Sweden's Armagedda. It was released in 2001 through Breath of Night Records. I believe this band came recommended by a friend while I was in Sweden, though the exact details elude me. However, what I do remember is that the first song that I heard from Armagedda seemed promising enough for me to seek the album out and give them a shot. Hearing that they shared some acquaintances, at the very least, with Watain also added some anticipation. In the end, I found it to be forgettable and a little disappointing.
To just come out and state the obvious, this band is one of the countless Darkthrone clones that sprang up around the end of the last century. With this in mind, I still hoped for better results, but the album is just too inconsistent. The production is raw and attempts to capture the feeling from Transilvanian Hunger, but does not come close. It possesses a rather amateurish quality that betrays the lack of knowledge of the individuals involved. Of course, one can tell that they have good taste; at least they are emulating a good band. However, they are not really adding anything unique into the mix. The first track, "Deathminded", is pretty decent and features a handful of nice riffs, but just comes off as trying too hard to recreate the past. It also drags a bit. Even the shorter songs feel as though they are much longer, as the arrangements just are not all that engaging. "Skogens Mörka Djup" is one the exceptions, as its length and approach suits the slow and mournful pace. Overall, this material needed a lot more work and the majority of it comes off as highly derivative with nothing worthwhile added.
The production is awful in that the drumming is too loud and the piss-poor vocals are also too high in the mix. A few of the songs even sound as if they were not recorded during the same session (possibly not at the same studio). This is unacceptable and destroys what little continuity the album had going for it. As for the vocals, Graav is simply awful at this. He sounds like he is chewing his own face, and it does not come off as grim or evil, it just sounds like hell. I get an image of someone small, frail and extremely feeble when I hear his vocals. It is as if he was trying too hard to achieve a sound that he just could not pull off. The end result is something comical, in a way.
The Final War Approaching is not all bad. The musicianship is solid enough. The drumming shows an understanding of minimalist playing, according to Fenriz, and rarely going overboard with the unnecessary fills and so on. The weaknesses are mostly apparent when the songs slow down. The same is true for the guitar playing, as it only comes off as sloppy during the slower parts. When things are moving at a fast tempo, everything sounds as it should. If this was a simple demo release, it would actually give a better impression. Nevertheless, as a full-length album, it does not measure up. They would have done better to work on the material longer, getting rid of useless riffs and also putting more effort into injecting the music with a bit of their own identity instead of trying so hard to pick up where Darkthrone left off. The album is decent for what it is, but could have used a lot of improvement.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
I have to say it makes me sick to hear people claiming that ARMAGEDDA's "Final War Approaching" is an album that copies Darkthrone in their cult days! Such statements are, to say the least, misleading and should not become a source of prejudice for anyone out there who's looking for some really hateful True Black Metal!
I'll be the first person to admit that the opening track does remind me of the great yet fleeting moments of greatness that Darkthrone went through in the early nineties, especially with its main melodic riff. However, ARMAGEDDA do not attempt to imitate any other band in the overall feel that "Final War..." has. This is an album that comprises all the positives that TBM has to offer. Firstly, the music is hateful beyond anything that I have ever heard, and any aspect I'd choose to cover in this report would come out throned on superlatives! Let me be specific. The vocals, for instance, are among the raspiest I have ever heard ,and the growls Graav produces here must have given his throat a century-long ache! This is what passionate hate sounds like! The guitars, another highlight, are not tainted by any studio work that would make them sound different from what you'd hear if ARMAGEDDA played live and you had the honour of witnessing that. The bass itself is not so audible but still manages to play its role in the atmosphere created on this gem. As might be expected, the drums are no more and no less than what pure Black Metal should have, with some simplistic beats and others that make a rich use of double-bass. In short, everything combines to make "Final War..." a lesson in darkness and hatred! And even the cult masters Darkthrone would recognize that ARMAGEDDA were at the time the band that had taken over from them.
I won't hide my feelings, ARMAGEDDA's "Final War Approaching" belongs to my all-time favourite musical releases. All the songs are grimly excellent, but it's songs like "Deathminded", "Final War ..." and "Skogens Mörka Djup" that will forever impress me beyond reckoning! This is as close as anyone has ever come to creating perfect Black Metal!
Here we have some no-frills black metal terror certain to raise the hackles of both normals and clueless metal pseudo-sophisticates who equate pomp and extraneous window dressing with progression. Happily, Armagedda probably don't a flying flap about musical progress, and therein lies the secret of "The Final War Approaching"s success. This young, energetic band is wise beyond their years in that they focus on giving their all to the music rather than venturing their inexperienced minds to attempt something too ambitious. Abrasive tremolo riffery in grey and black is shaped into rudimentary but catchy melodies that conjure the epic obscurity of classic Darkthrone, but with detours into more staccato shards that ricochet within the basic rhythms. Offhand dissonance and feedback squeals, coupled with the flat, small room production keep your ears attuned to the lacerating, jagged immanence of these primitive sounds. So, while nothing terribly original, this album bristles with energy and conviction. In a scene plagued by plastic playstation cybergoths, it's refreshing to hear a gang of fuckers who would spit on any rpg wiccan chastising them for a lack of cellos. Hails to Armagedda and to future apocalyptic offerings