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Friday, October 24, 2014

Armageddon - Armageddon

Armageddon is considered one of the most unsung gems from the lost and hidden treasures of the heavy and progressive rock bands to come out of the mid ‘70s and their sole self-titled debut album is an overlooked gem. These 5 tracks show how much they never reached the recognition they deserve and since their formation forty years ago, it shows how much they were way ahead of their time and would have given Led Zeppelin a huge run of their money if they had still continued to move forward, but splitting up after a sudden tragedy.

The band considered; Keith Relf (The Yardbirds/Renaissance) on Lead Vocals and Harmonica, Bobby Caldwell (Captain Beyond) on Drums, Martin Pugh (Steamhammer) on Guitar, and Louis Cennamo (Steamhammer/Renaissance) on Bass Guitar. The band was signed to A&M Records with help from supporter Peter Frampton, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. The label did everything they could to promote and market the band whenever they can as the group was recording their debut in Barnes at Olympic Studios during the autumn of 1974.

Opening track, Buzzard, begins with a rumbling wah-wah buzzing guitar introduction that Martin Pugh does before Caldwell and Cennamo come in as Pugh is going into his improvisation on here as he and Caldwell just nail it through like a bullet train going 600 miles per hour before Keith’s voice comes in knowing that there is not a single stop sign for the quartet. And he is going through heavy solos and riffs as Caldwell is lending a helping hand throughout his drum kit and it goes through the styles of Zeppelin and Purple rolling in town.

And then Keith Relf’s wailing and crying harmonica echoes throughout and the Bluesy touches are fitting in perfectly before closing with a bang from guitar and drums. Silver Tightrope shows Relf going through a moving vocal arrangement as the echoing sounds of Martin Pugh, gives it a wonderful clean reverb sound that is very much in the realms of the Physical Graffiti-era for the first four minutes before the band comes in and let the piece relax and calm into the clouds before Pugh goes back into the improvising melodies as the background vocalizations help him out to end the piece.

After the moody and relaxing vibes of the second composition, Armageddon gets back to harder edges and back into town. Paths and Planes and Future Gains sounds like cannon going off thanks to Pugh, Caldwell, and Cennamo’s bass line before Keith sings “Silver Trumpets Call/Herald Shining Armour/Armour so bright/That the blind will fall.”  It has this war cry if you will as you can imagine the situation between good and evil are preparing for battle to fight and sacrifice for their lives as guitar, drums, and Relf go into this chugging rhythm and it’s almost a head banging feel throughout the last 2-minutes.

Last Stand Before sees Armageddon laying down some proto-metal grooves and shows their touches to Led Zeppelin once more and having the riffs and drums fitting in before a dueling battle between Keith Relf’s roaring harmonica and Martin Pugh’s rhythm and lead guitar sound makes it a perfect competition to see who would win in the race and they are all winners on this. After four compositions, it is time for the 11-minute epic, Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun.

This is where the band is in full tight swing on this last piece before going off for the sun to go down. With a riveting introduction as if the ship is ready for take-off, the band get cooking as Pugh gets the beat down to a pulsing riff and intense turned psychedelic rhythm along with Caldwell’s drumming that is very uptempo beat, makes it a joyous adventure into outer space. Along with Keith improvisation on the harmonica adds the reverb and delay effect to make it as if it’s a roaring beat along with Caldwell’s homage to Ginger Baker and Pugh’s growling rhythm chords that are monstrous and having a crescendo and then the interstellar driving force is heading back to earth for a climatic ending.

It is their magnum opus with a hard rock and reminiscent of Nektar’s music that deserves to be played loud and get the dancing kicks in there and almost as if it could have been a live favorite among the audience to enjoy and embrace the piece. The band never got any help from their label and with only limited backing and only two performances, Armageddon called it a day. Keith Relf was having asthma problems and was planning to joined up original line-up members of Renaissance called, Illusion.

But it was never going to happen for him. Sadly, Keith Relf died after being electrocuted while playing guitar in 1976. He was only 33 years old. It’s a shame when a band releases only one or two albums and never got the respect they needed from their record labels due to poor marketing and receiving some good reviews and Armageddon never got that chance. The people from Esoteric Recordings have done an amazing job reissuing this album back in 2009 with liner notes about the history of the group and lyrics from the album. So if you love Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Led Zeppelin to name a few, then Armageddon is worth checking out. 

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