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guykThis month's forgotten classic is the self-titled debut album "Armageddon." To say this is a "forgotten" release is a misnomer as it is, and has long been, regarded as a masterpiece. In fact, it was hailed as a masterpiece when released (even by critics), it is considered timeless and often deemed to be a view into the future of rock music (which, in many ways, it indeed was). Because the band largely refused to tour (mainly, being fed up with that lifestyle and only having played two live shows), the album never achieved popular acclaim.

Founded in later part of ‘74 Armageddon was Britain's answer to heavy rock and the rise of the so-called stadium rock bands in America (i.e., Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie, Bad Company, etc.). This band may have been only a footnote in music history had not Peter Frampton recommended the band to his management as well as A&M records, which issued this one and only release. A jam session at the Charlie Chaplin studio was seen and heard by Dee Anthony, manager for Emerson, Lake & Palmer, J. Geils & the J. Geils Band, and Peter Frampton. Armageddon was shortly thereafter signed with Anthony as manager and A&M as their label. It literally happened almost overnight.

To call it a "debut" is also a misnomer given the vast experience of the musicians that comprised Armageddon. While each musician has a very detailed musical history, only certain highlights of which are herein discussed, Armageddon was a British/American hard rock group that featured musicians Keith Relf, Martin Pugh, Bobby Caldwell, and Louis Cennamo. Relf was formerly the lead singer and blues harp player for the Yardbirds, the well know British power blues band that produced such legendary guitarists as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page. Relf was also well known as a founder of Renaissance, wherein he largely abandoned his blues roots. Relf died at the age of 33 at his home from electrocution while playing his improperly grounded electric guitar. While then working upon a Renaissance reunion album, "Armageddon" toady stands as his last completed work. To say Armageddon was a See change in his style is a real understatement.

Martin Pugh was the guitarist for Armageddon, and his pedigree included stints with the well know and acclaimed band Steamhammer, which released 4 albums starting in the late 1960's. Pugh is also known for being the featured guitarist on one of Rod Stewart's early solo albums. When Steamhammer split up, Louis Cennamo (Armageddon's bass player, who also played with Renaissance, and is credited with the invention of the electric bowed bass), came to the USA with Pugh and here hooked up with Bobby Caldwell the only American in the band (Caldwell was recommended by drummer Aynsley Dunbar, famous for work with David Bowie, John Mayall, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, UFO, Journey, and dozens of others). Cennamo was a known jazz bass player who also played with Colosseum, a band featuring notables such as David Greenslade and Clem Clemson. Drummer Bobby Caldwell was a natural fit for a hard and fast paced rock album, being a well known rock drummer for Captain Beyond, Rick Derringer, and Johnny Winter, though he also was a producer and keyboard player. Caldwell's heavy rock influences probably contributed heavily to the heavy shift in style. With Pugh having already booked Relf as the lead singer, Armageddon was thus born.

The opening track on Armageddon is a tune called "Buzzard". It opens with a wah-wah infused guitar playing a speed-riff that pumps through a majority of the tune with each instrument coming in one at a time to an all out jam ending in the spirit of classic 70's rock. At over 8 minutes long, it is, oddly, the second shortest song on the release. Following the blood pumping opener is "Silver Tightrope", a slow, melodic, psychedelic-tinged song with a mellow-moody guitar. The song is drenched in watery effects swimming throughout the track that further add to the very moving lyrical message. "Paths And Planes And Future Gains" finishes up the A-side and again is a hard hitting guitar-based rock number. The B side consists of only two tracks, the short Last Stand Before and the eclectic multi-part song "Basking In The White Of The Midnight Sun", which runs well over eleven minutes in length. This last piece has hard rock, jazz, blues, and even strong classical influences in the four movements of its over all structure. In short, Armageddon's compositions are characterized by deep introspective lyrical content (Renaissance), powered up with drums and a steady diet of guitar riffs and stylistic chord progressions (á la Steamhammer & Yardbirds).

Overall, this band was appropriately named. The biblical reference to the name of the final battlefield between good and evil was the perfect name for a somewhat psychedelic, somewhat nihilistic band that foreshadowed the later popular harder-edged metal riffs. The irony here was that Relf was an icon of the peacenicks, a hippie and idealist that even left the heavy wall of dueling guitars blues sound of the Yardbirds for the simpler psychedelic-folk influences of Renaissance. How this all led to Armageddon and its heavy and futuristic bent will never be known as Relf died less than a year after this release. It was known that he was not then working upon a second release for Armageddon, but instead upon a re-birth of Renaissance (to be re-named as Illusion). After Relf died, the remaining band members tried some tracks with a substitute vocalist, but A&M was no longer biting and the band split up and again went their separate ways.

The album has literally become something of a collector's item, as it was somewhat rare and hard to fine, even on cd (it took me over 8 years to find it on cd). It is a never before heard, and never again to be heard of, blend of psychedelia, hard edge blues and mid- 70's metal in a package featuring long and complex compositions with many change-ups, tasty hooks, and reprises.

If you have never heard of this band, give a listen. It may be a tad heavy for some tastes, but if you appreciate detailed and intelligent compositions that are well played with a strong groove, you'll still respect, if not love, what these four musicians accomplished in 1975.


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