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Transcendent, beautiful and electric. - 98%

Empyreal, September 7th, 2009

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.