This Armageddon – an oft-employed band name that features something like 800 entries on Metal Archives – is, one could argue, deeply under-appreciated, featuring as it does the talents of former Arch Enemy guitarist Christopher Amott (and a revolving lineup of session players). It may be the fact that they've usually been positioned as side project to Amott's main band, or it could be that their sparse output has gone from melodic death metal initially to a sort of melodeath-informed version of power metal, but suffice to say this long-gestating reunion – their most recent effort was 2002's Three – hasn't been greeted with the sort of fanfare welcoming new efforts by Carcass and At the Gates.
Fair enough. For all their quality attributes Armageddon are hardly the sea changing world beaters as either fellow Swedes At the Gates nor Amott's brother Michael's band Carcass, but listening to their new effort Captivity & Devourment it seems like they should at least be getting the sort of props that Arch Enemy enjoys.
The title track kicks things off with a straight up, old school death metal riff but quickly settles into a triplet-driven midtempo groove. It's here that we're introduced to new singer Matt Hallquist's raspy death rattle. Hallquist appears to be a real newcomer, his other band Under the Serpent Sun self-releasing their own debut EP earlier in 2014. His vocals are pretty boilerplate death metal, but in a clean, well-articulated sense that gets the job done.
The real star of this show is Amott's guitar work: his fluid solos and intricate grasp of melody are every bit as virtuosic and compelling as big bro Michael's, and his ability to pen snappy central riffs is about as sharp as anyone in the game right now. The instantly memorable "Locked In" is something that I'm sure his (now former) band mates in Arch Enemy would have undoubtedly loved to have recorded for themselves, and the moody "Fugitive Dust" demonstrates a little versatility by harkening back to a mid-80's German vibe a la Accept. Amott even lays down some of his own clean vocal accompaniment on songs like "Equalizer" and "Rendition", but the overall template is the use of Hallquist's more brutal vox to sort of beefen up the otherwise mostly melodic guitar work.
As alluded to earlier, Captivity & Devourment is not the kind of work that's going to get fans of the more forward-thinking/experimental stuff all hot and bothered, but what it is is a concise ten song minor masterpiece of masterful songwriting and tight band interaction (with each album featuring different players, Amott seems to have a knack for not only picking the perfect musicians to complement his writing, but also also in being a player who is capable of complementing a variety of other musicians himself).
That said, as post-script news broke just after Christmas that Hallquist is already out due to "personal reasons", so in true Armageddon tradition those doors just keep a-revolving. If any good came out of that press release it's the acknowledgment that, as soon as a replacement is found, the now-New York based band intend to engage in a full tour. I feel sorry for any band that makes the mistake of having Armageddon open for them.