Embrace the Mystery

I’m sure there aren’t many out there that remember or even know that Arch Enemy guitarist Christopher Amott has a side-project monikered, Armageddon. The band’s debut offering, Crossing the Rubicon, was technically proficient death metal that, in this humble reviewer’s opinion, outweighed Arch Enemy by leaps and bounds.

Metal history aside, Amott decided it was time to reinvent Armageddon under a different line-up and a distinctly alternate musical direction. Embrace the Mystery, available only in Japan, is for all intensive purposes melodic power metal. Yup, the death metal is a buried subject. Perhaps, Amott feared he’d repeat himself with Arch Enemy being an active entity. In any case, the album is a noteworthy entrant in the wide (and sometimes narrow) world of heavy metal. Of course, the first element to discuss here is new singer Rickard Bengtsson. It’s difficult to pin down a direct influence, but his performance is reminiscent (although less nasal and pronounced) of ex-Nocturnal Rites frontman Anders Zackrisson; Bengtsson’s lyrical repertoire, thankfully, isn’t filled with dragons, warriors and tales of mystery.

With that in mind, the music these four Swedes create is unashamedly piped from the masters of the genre: Iron Maiden, Dio, Dokken and, of course, Malmsteen. Hell, the liner notes distinctly mention George Lynch! Yes! “The Broken Spell” firmly plants Armageddon into the ranks of the current leaders, coming across with a slight progressive bent in the rhythm and lead section. Oh, did I forget Daniel Erlandsson (Eucharist, Arch Enemy) and Dick L’wgren (In Flames current touring bassist) are the cement that holds the flamboyant but exceptional guitar work of Amott in place? Now you know. For what it’s worth, Armageddon’s assembly of competent and accomplished musicians is what sets it apart from 99 percent of the screamers and dreamers out there.

Moving forward in the tracklist, “World’s Apart” features an ultra-catchy lick that I’m hard-pressed not to forget ‘ no matter where I’m at, what I’m listening to, it just happens to interrupt my otherwise extreme music preference. I did grow up on Dokken and Europe, however. “Cry of Fate,” like most songs here, is foot tapping, fast car-driving metal at its finest, especially when Amott’s leads spiral out of the expeditious chugging. Yet, there is an aspect to the band’s songwriting, particularly in the progressive department that is far ahead of its peers. Sure, the band can swing arpeggios and complex scales at any moment, but it’s their restrained and tasteful use that generates breathing room for each instrument to come together to sound their most effective. And what Armageddon isn’t with the requisite instrumental? Okay, the debut had three, but “Moonlight Climber” is here to highlight the precise nature of the musicians behind the fold. The title track is by far the most developed of the lot on album number two. The chorus is the obvious pivot on which Armageddon revolves around ‘ this is inarguably Bengtsson’s high point.

The band tries to accomplish the same feat on “Sleep of Innocence.” It’s a strong number for the quartet, but even with such a prevalent and repeated chorus, it doesn’t fully blossom like the aforementioned track. While Embrace the Mystery is exceptional, the band could have pushed their ideas forward more, creating inventive forays for the movement. Songs like “Grain of Sand” (god, I hate ballads) and “Illusion’s Tale” simply fail to capture the vibrancy of the title track and write more on the established cliches.

Coming full circle, if you haven’t heard the band’s debut album and heavy metal is your game, then by all means invest in Embrace the Mystery. It’s well worth your effort! But before we go, my suggestion to Bengtsson for the next photo shoot is to keep the shirt buttoned up’ We’re not all excitable little Japanese girls.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
April 16th, 2000


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