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Creativity is a versatile beast, in which artists from many different fields can cross over to other fields to expand their horizons and provide insight into just how innovative the human mind can be. With so little to inhibit man's natural curiosity to grow and learn, in life, art and, indeed, Heavy Metal, there is nothing to stop albums like Armageddon's Embrace the Mystery from completely dominating one's listening habits.
Taking its cues from Angra, old Helloween and a myriad of melodic masters in between, Armageddon unleashed this masterwork on the world in the twilight of the new millennium, with Christopher Amott leading a pack of talented musicians on an unforgettable endeavour of metal mastery. Embrace the Mystery is an invigorated affair full of uplifting melodies and cacophonous riffing galore. Chris Amott's guitar playing is flashy, almost ornately so at some points on here, but he never forgets to write good hooks and memorable licks, which I think some people could really learn from. The guitar work on this album is simply magical, being both crunchy and emotive as hell. Even the drumming and bass playing are technical as hell, while still retaining enough melodic intricacy to stay Power Metallized. Vocal duties on here are handled by Rickard Bengtsson, who was also in Last Tribe when they were still active. He has a great voice, sounding right in between Bruce Dickinson's unstoppable charisma and Michael Kiske's light, fluffy wailing - sometimes he reminds me of Edu Falaschi from Angra, except Edu never sounded this good. He always sounds powerful and majestic, never losing an inch of his pristine metallic sneer.
The most interesting thing about this album as a whole is that it's a sort of retrospective look at the Power Metal genre from a musician who doesn't usually play the style. Embrace the Mystery is a refreshing twist on the genre, with lots of unexpected turns and honest surprises that sound completely natural, not forced at all - this is really a creative gold mine of ideas. Just listen to the title track, for example, with its jettisoning tempo and jarring verse-chorus melodies. Or perhaps "Worlds Apart," which contrasts a stirring and uplifting musical base and verse melody with perhaps the most tragic chorus on the album for one of its best overall songs. "Illusions Tale" has some of the most soul searing melody lines you'll ever hear, moving gracefully across a powerful, open soundscape that I just love. Or even just the straight ahead melodic riffing of "The Broken Spell" and "Blind Fury," which escape any kind of cliché at all with a heavy sense of dynamic and innovation to the writing, changing gears several times and remaining exciting. And that's not even mentioning the DragonForce-esque "Cry of Fate," with the most colorful and charging guitar lines yet, and the instrumental "Moongate Climber," which segues from heavy, jagged riffs to acoustic sections better than In Flames ever did.
I am just completely floored by this. It's a thirty five minute album with a unique style, creative vision and musical accompaniment that many fifty or sixty minute ones don’t have. There's really nothing else that sounds like Armageddon on this album, despite some arbitrary comparisons to the big bands of the Power Metal genre, and it is a shame that they haven't been putting out more material. Embrace the Mystery's title just about sums up the album as a whole, as this album is transcendent, beautiful, mysterious and soulful. It is a work of music that we just have to...well, embrace with open arms. It is a strange beast that people will interpret differently and have different favorite songs from. With a powerful stroke, Armageddon created a masterpiece in Earth-shaking Power Metal, and if you have a chance to hear it, I recommend doing so.
Many folks sure don’t spin this gem! Still, who can blame how obscure Armageddon is in the realm of Metal? The genre shifting, theme revolving, member rotating group sure has a shitload of skill that the world has yet to pay attention to. I currently bought this album along with Three, which is a thrilling work of art on its own.
For those who know, Armageddon is the sole side project of Christopher Amott, guitar guru of Arch Enemy. In my words Chris is the special one of the Amott brothers; he displays both intricate guitar leads on all fronts of Metal and employs his resources, in combination with his designs, to formulate grand schemes that everyone appreciates (Three is a perfect example).
Chris performs superbly on this record, throwing all sorts of melodies, clear riffs, and enough worthy solos to make DragonForce FUGAZI – Yeah, it’s that much superior. Interesting display of riff and mesmerizing solo combinations can be heard in “Blind Fury,” the tight instrumental “Moongate Climber,” the title track, and the most compelling, gripping song on here – “World’s Apart.” The solos and the carefree mood of the guitar and synths are spellbinding I tell you!
Chris’s guitar blitzkrieg is accompanied by some serious bass support, held high and mighty by Dick Lövgren – a man with nothing to lose. Although the production follows the vocals and guitars, Dicky’s rumbling can be heard clearly enough. No concentration is necessary to hear the man’s work, which is very satisfying as you can kick back and hear every instrument execute its magic. “The Broken Spell,” “World’s Apart,” and “Cry Of Fate” are choice cuts to love Lövgren’s effort. Daniel Erlandsson acts like the Gestapo to the drums, oppressing it till kingdom come! Danny definitely stays on key with the rhythm no doubt, utilizing all that he has access to. The tracks he doesn’t appear on are the intro “Awakening” and “Grain Of Sand,” which also happens to be free of Lövgren as well. Sadly, his labor isn’t noticed first hand, as the guitars and vocals are the forefront of this album. Regardless, Chris hired two veterans in the business to help record this unnoticed masterpiece – do him a favor and LISTEN TO THIS!
Two veterans? I must be shitting myself! I left out my main man Rickard Bengtsson who, besides Chris, leads the team to victory here. Later on he would improve his vocals in Last Tribe, another commendable Power Metal band. Nonetheless, his vocals are always loud, clear, and melodic as hell. I swear this man has so much embarrassment sucked out of him that he has his shirt half unbuttoned on the cover, exposing his hairy chest – no fucking joke. When the rest of the instruments become a lower priority, Rickard makes damn sure that his vocals are memorable. For one, he seems to be able to adjust to any speed, from the charging “The Broken Spell,” to the open “Illusions Tale,” and even on the acoustic, leisurely “Grain Of Sand.” I swear that the production also alters to make it sound like Bengtsson is singing to the entire world like on “Cry Of Fate,” which he carries out professionally and beautifully – even for a man. Do not pass on this his capabilities; he will surely make your time worth more than you thought.
Although the structure of all the songs follow the common application as most bands, the material within sure sounds fresh. While Chris does a fine job on lead guitar and vocalist today, the music feels so crisp that I would love to hear a sophomore to this particular release – despite the fact that it will never come true. This album will appeal highly to Power Metal enthusiasts or open-minded listeners, but may take some time to suck in for Arch Enemy fans. Even with Chris in it, you’ve strayed far from Melodic Death Metal territory – though his solos still sound similar in tone and pitch to his Arch Enemy work. Even with the 35 minute capacity this disk holds, you’ll feel that a lifetime has passed because the tracks are so fulfilling and full of life; or as put before by those who have heard this, “A much-needed breath of fresh air.”