Project Armageddon has an album out, an eight-song collection of a particularly unique brand of stripped-down metal called Tides of Doom. As you may have judged from the name, it's not a sunshine-and-daffodils opus, but rather a bald, stark look at a world careening towards a destruction that it more or less totally deserves.
In many ways the album is brilliant. Three-person metal is hard to pull off as it either degenerates into some kind of heavy super-punk, or reaches for a bigger sound that it simply cannot accomplish.
Tides of Doom maintains its own peculiar identity throughout, using minimalism to create a blighted landscape to perform in. You can almost feel the crack of Brandon Johnson's dry skin as he strums below a scorched sun, and Alexis Hollada's sexless wail sounds like radioactive choir.
In general, there isn't much speed on the album, and songs like "Sanctimonious" move like a noble to the scaffold. Fairly standard metal fare fills the lyrics, calls for blood and condemnation of the faithful corrupt. Music lovers who consider "War Pigs" to be the greatest metal song ever written will feel right at home with Tides of Doom.
The band utilizes a curiously repetitive style of songwriting that occasionally sinks into monotonous, but for the most part builds and swirls like a good Phillip Glass soundtrack. Endless 32-bar cycles of their solid riffs fill their songs well past the five-minute mark. It's definitely not an album to listen to if you happen to be in a hurry.
And yet, the album has a flaw in its layout. Simply put, it does not flow well, and often feels disjointed. Make no mistake, there are pockets of perfection, but in terms of sequence it's misaligned. Take the final three tracks, "Upon Solace's Shores," "Fallow Fields" and "Paths of Darkness."
"Solace" is a short, haunting instrumental that flows like the River Styx into the somber "Fallow Fields" before utterly annihilating in the more robust "Paths of Darkness." The three tunes are wonderful, but utterly out of sync with the rest of the album. They would've made a fantastic EP.
Also consider one of the best songs on the album, "Call to Piety." It's another bass-heavy, Glassian composition that really should've served as Tides of Doom's overture, and is instead a stumbling block after opening the album with the much more pedestrian "Into the Sun."
This is an overall minor complaint, though. Clearly, Project Armageddon isn't afraid to rattle the bars of metal. They freely experiment with forms and styles, often crafting unforgettable pieces that grip a listener with an iron first.
Their style is obviously still evolving, and that process is brilliant enough that we'll await the full final form.
We down with Johnson and Hollada to chat about the release. Click on over to page 2 for the interview.
Rocks Off: Your sound is very stripped-down.
Alexis Hollada: Sometimes simplicity gives you that bigger sound. Nothing is being masked by tons of overlays. Thick and solid!
Brandon Johnson: I think it's just because we are a three-piece band. Plus it keeps things heavy. Less is more in the music we play. Also it's easier to pull off the songs live. If we had a bunch of synths and stuff the songs wouldn't come across the right way in a live setting.
RO: We know you're called Project Armageddon, but it seems like every song is about the end of the world. Why the obsession with the apocalypse?
AH: Well the end of "our" world anyways. Nature will survive and flourish. Really, it's the roots of metal. Since Sabbath started laying it down 40-plus years ago, not much has changed: religious intolerance, oppression and wars, pollution, nuclear threat/plants melting down and emitting masses of radiation!
How do you sugarcoat that? This doesn't mean we are a dour bunch. We have a good time, especially onstage.
RO: It's a very hopeless record, mostly focused on mankind deserving destruction. Are we really so bad?
AH: Most religious texts and stories out there have an end-of-the-world scenario for mankind, so what does that tell you? From my view, the songs tell what's currently going on around us and unless we do something this will be the world we leave our children to face.
It's like waking from a prophetic dream and realizing we have to overcome our differences and accept each other to survive.
BJ: We can be. Maybe it's just a warning that we have to change. We cannot as a species that wants to survive continue down that path we are going. We either change or we will die off.
We need to get over our petty differences and solve some of these serious problems we have. We thrive on conflict. So that is just wishful thinking.
RO: You have a certain Philip Glass redundancy to your riffs, repeating them for 32 bars when another band might have stopped at 8. What is the purpose of repetition in your songs?
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BJ: If it's a good riff why change? Really we have just matured as song writers. I used to say I had musical ADD. In the past I didn't think a song I had written was good unless it has at least ten parts in it. When I could have made two or three great songs out of those same riffs now.
AH: Exactly Brandon. Sometimes the old eight-bar standard isn't enough to let it really sink in. Especially if it's got a nice underlying groove!