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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