ARMAGEDON - Invisible Circle / Dead Condemnation (THRASHING MADNESS CD 2014)
This is one of those reissues I was waiting to come for with a great hunger. All in all back in the early / mid 90’s Armagedon’s “Invisible Circle” belonged to my favourite death metal albums (SERIOUSLY!). I was still a kid, but already knew the best death and thrash metal classics… and I remember first time hearing about this band when I’ve read interview with them in Metal Hammer, supporting this (then upcoming) album… It was announced as second to Vader brilliant death metal band from Poland. And soon later I found that cassette in local record store and purchased it without hesitate, spending my all pocket money I had. And it seriously turned into a real beast; amazing album, which accompanied me for many years. But my old cassette is long dead, so I was waiting for a real re-issue! Sure, I also had that miserable CDR release from Apocalypse Productions, which was fine to have, but was not even half what I would expect! And finally in 2014 Thrashing Madness managed to properly exhume “Invisible Circle” and released this CD along with the awesome, classic “Dead Condemnation” demo. And this is the first time these recordings have such proper, quality release, so even if you still have your old tapes you may also consider buying this CD, as the booklet and music are all fantastic. OK, the booklet could have been better – read: maybe it could have some more information on the old days of Armagedon, some more extras like and look like it’s on the Merciless Death re-issues. Anyway, it’s not bad either: there are quite few archival band photos plus all the lyrics from the album (sadly, no lyrics from the demo)… Sure, those who like to moan will always find a reason to complain; I will keep myself quiet, as the most important is that these materials are finally available again and first time on CD (now, will there be also a vinyl version or not??).
Of course it is not easy to review an album, where you already know every sound perfectly… every song, every riff, drum bit, all vocals are there in the head, so there’s no surprise anymore and all became predictable. And where I listen to “Invisible Circle” today I just know it to perfection. Obviously the same I can say about many other classic records, such as “Altars of Madness”, “Testimony of the Ancients” or “Left Hand Path” – I know them perfectly also, but they’re a class higher than “Invisible Circle”, so they’ll never feel boring or monotonous and will always deliver the highest dose of energy one can get from music. In case of this debut CD of Armagedon I feel maybe slightly bored, but not because I don’t like this album, but just because – as I mentioned before – I just know it too well nowadays. So, it is just impossible for me to review it objectively, especially as I hold all those memories from the old days… but giving a honest review I can say that one thing is most important here and it is the fact that “Invisible Circle” survived the test of time perfectly and it didn’t grow old badly. It is still very vital material and it still sounds brilliantly aggressive, powerful and not archaic at all! This is how you recognize timeless classics!
I suppose that when I listen to “Invisible Circle” today two things come to my mind first. One is that I forgot how fast this music was, I suppose that Armagedon might have been one of the fastest death metal bands of the time in the country! Most of the songs have fast pace and sure, they’re not Krisiun fast and luckily they’re also not Krisiun-boring fast, but have plenty of variety, also with slower parts and many awesome arrangements… but I just forgot how many blasts are here and at the same time how brilliant were Armagedon’s ideas, song structures and arrangements. Secondly, the production… Hmm, I must say that this album sounded very good for the Polish standards of early 90’s. Sure, nowadays some may say that the guitars sound is slightly thin and surely would do better if it had more “juice” or “meat” – read: was heavier, more powerful. Also the drums could be better, but I suppose there’s no point in judging the production values from 20 years ago, as would it change anything? No, it would not.
Armagedon was rightfully considered to be the best after Vader Polish death metal band… and “Invisible Circle” will show you exactly why. Great musicianship, awesome ideas and arrangements with plenty of variety and absolute lack of stagnation and boredom, many absolutely fantastic songs – this is what you can find on the album. Armagedon was sort of a mixture of Polish death metal aggression alike to Vader, Betrayer and the classic American style of death metal. There are particular riffs / ideas / songs which do remind me such classic bands as Obituary, Malevolent Creation, Gorguts, Resurrection, Disincarnate, Cancer, Monstrosity, etc and that is a compliment, but at the same time it is just different! I can assure you that Armagedon didn’t have to be ashamed of themselves when confronting their music with all these more popular foreign representatives of death metal. Quality wise they were not so far behind them (and in some cases they were even better, in my opinion!).
It’s almost impossible to describe the whole content of “Invisible Circle” to those, who have never heard this album before. Why? Because so much is going on within this album. Yes, it is fairly traditional death metal, but Armagedon managed to compose several killer songs and incorporated so many different ideas that I would have to go track by track to describe it fully. The main scheme is what I described above: aggressive death metal in the Polish / US vein. There are fast, uncompromising songs such as “Death Liberates” and “In the Land of Uncertainty”, which both are a truly blasting opening and there’s also such “Two Faces” – aarrrgghhhh! But there are also such songs as “Circle of False Truths” (killer!!!!!), then “Instead of Epilogue”, which is almost epic in few moments and surely has some of the slower pieces off the whole album. Finally there’s the awesome “From Beyond Oneself”, where the keyboards sound damn good and provide a fantastic, dark, monumental atmosphere. For the entire duration the music is truly asskicking and I cannot find any fillers here, all songs are superb. And as I already mentioned, they didn’t get old at all, they still sound fresh! Sure, I wonder how would some of these tunes sound with current recording studio conditions, if were recorded in such Hertz Studio for instance… but I do hope that Armagedon will never want to find that out and will never re-record any of these old songs hehe!
Before “Invisible Circle” there was also “Dead Condemnation” demo. And trust me, this is surely one of my personal favourite demos ever! I love it. The production is just excellent, so aggressive, harsh but powerful… and the songs are perfect with “The Term of Existence” (which probably is even my most liked song in the whole Armagedon career) and “Inside the Soul” (what a fast bastard!!!!!!) being my favourites! The band already presented skills (both technical and compositional), which raised them well above 99% of the rest of Polish metal scene and had amazing quality of the recording and excellent material, better than most of the bands of the time. I suppose there’s only one song on the demo, which I don’t like so much and it is the last one called “Fate”, which has more thrash metal parts here and there and definitely lacks that spark and violence of the rest of the material. But who cares…
So, this is the whole “Invisible Circle / Dead Condemnation”. Yes, very very sought after release and I am so glad that it is finally out. So, get your copy now, even if you still have the old cassettes you just need the CD as well, trust me!
Standout tracks: “Death Liberates”, “Circle of False Truths”, “Two Faces”, “Instead of Epilogue”, “The Term of Existence”
Final rate: 89/100