France's Black Metal scene has been received with mixed feelings in a lot of quarters, perhaps owing to a sort of quirky interest that many bands coming out of there have had with either their lyrics, message, or the odd employment of the various stylistic devices first pioneered in Sweden, Germany and Switzerland during the pre-2nd wave era. But there are a few sure things to be found within France's borders for the rabid traditionalist, and one of them is ARMAGEDDON, a one-man project that displays a level of stylistic conservatism that rivals that of early Immortal in its strict adherence to the sounds first purveyed by BATHORY and HELLHAMMER/CELTIC FROST.
At times, it can be difficult to tell whether sophomore effort "Necromantic Celebration" was the end result of listening to nothing but mid 80s proto-Black Thrash albums like the early SODOM demos/EPs, BATHORY’S first 3 offerings, the brief run that HELLHAMMER had, or a number of other early NWOBHM bands or contemporaries out of Germany. Everything on here is a near perfectly conformed approach to riff production, sepulchral shouts and wails, and fast paced noodling that was difficult not to run into between 1984 and 1987 on the outer fringes of Thrash and Heavy Metal. Barring Silvere Catteau's more moderated growl, this could almost be mistaken for a DEATHHAMMER album.
From the frenzied intro title song, up until about 2/3rds of the way through this album, this thing listens like a perfect, straight shot of neck-destroying mayhem amid a starless night. At times there's an almost rocking character that comes and goes and was likely inspired by the first couple of albums out of RUNNING WILD, particularly during the breakdown section of "Shadow Of The Beast", but generally the character of this album is reliant on speed and flash rather than heaviness and groove. Actually, the level of lead guitar noodling, which is a bit too precise and organized for Quorthon's handiwork, is enough to make even the likes of SKELETONWITCH take notice.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this album is that it just keeps getting better and better as it goes, and most of the highlights are found towards its conclusion. "The Serpent King Returns" has the edge in terms of speed and aggression, displaying a barrage of impressive drum work and guitar riffs that are almost frenetic enough to rival SLAYER’S craziest work on "Show No Mercy". "Evil Inside Of Me" stands as the lone example of epic songwriting, employing some impressive atmospheric elements that play a slight bit into BATHORY’S Viking era at times (there's an acoustic section that sounds partially lifted off of "Twilight Of The Gods"), and also a wicked vocal delivery reminiscent of GORGOROTH over a slow paced groove reminiscent of HELLHAMMER’S quasi-Doom character. The cover of Running Wild's "Branded And Exiled" is also well accomplished, though a bit more by the numbers minus the toneless shrieks replacing Rolf's gritty baritone.
The only thing that can really be held against this album is that it's not breaking any new territory. There isn't anything on here that hadn't already been explored by 1987, save maybe the occasional nods to Viking metal, which were generally influenced by MANOWAR’S work from around the same period as BATHORY’S trailblazing blackened Thrash releases. But for an album that will cause one to Thrash to the point of hallucinating imagery from a black mass, this is a solid offering, and impressive to boot given that everything was performed by one guy.
(Online July 24, 2013)