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Aria – Armageddon

Aria
Armageddon
by kenn Staub at 08 January 2021, 11:09 PM

This past summer ARIA headed into the studio for the purpose of re-recording two albums, “Baptism By Fire” from 2003 (reviewed in another post) and 2006’s “Armageddon.” Though the re-releases, both of which dropped in October, feature the same instrumental line-up as the originals, Mikhail Zhitnyakov is now the vocalist, having taken over from Arthur Berkut in 2011. Known as the “RUSSIAN IRON MAIDEN,” ARIA play NWOBHM-style music that lyrically touches on themes of history, war, and religion (albeit all sung in Russian).

The opening cadence of “Lost Sunset” is set by Maxim Udalov’s uptempo drumming, with guitars serving as accent pieces. Shortly after the first minute “Lost Sunset” starts chugging along, becoming a straightforward, no nonsense heavy metal song. Zhitnyakov’s singing is impassioned and the guitar solo has a classic NWOBHM feel. “Masked by Evil” bears a resemblance to “Lost Sunset,” though it’s a bit denser instrumentally and the arrangement somewhat more complex. Folksy-style guitar interludes are situated between the song’s heavier parts, making for a tonal point-counterpoint. The guitar solo is played atop a surging rhythm and there is, at times, an interplay between the two.

I could hear the band’s resemblance to MAIDEN on “Guardian Of The Empire.” From the opening sounds of a dog fight and air raid siren, the track screams “Aces High.” Though the tempos are similar, “Guardian Of The Empire” isn’t as layered as the MAIDEN classic. That said, the beginning raises expectations and ARIA delivers.

The New Crusade” has a methodical start, with Udalov’s drumming establishing a headbanging theme heard over the course of the track. Vladimir Kholstinin and Sergey Popov combine for a two part guitar solo. I found myself settling into the rhythmic groove of “Messiah,” finding its consistency comfortable. Kholstinin and Popov once again show they are a formidable six string tandem, complementing each other during solos rather than engaging in competition. The swirling tonality of the outro is aurally interesting.

Filled with musical twists and turns, “The Blood Of Kings” is a MAIDEN-like metal epic replete with structural and stylistic changes. An atmospheric intro gives way to guitars and Zhitnyakov’s singing, which at times has hints of Bruce Dickinson’s performance on “For The Greater Good Of God.” The dual guitars are used to good effect as the track alternates between spare and dense, methodical and racing.

Viking” begins with mysterious sound effects intermixed with echoing verbiage as if spoken by a high priest. Drumming then leads the charge into a churning metal line, brief slow periods interspersed with more uptempo intervals. “Alien” quickly builds into a groove that drew me with its familiarity. Following the guitar solo the track becomes sparse before roaring back on the outro. “The Light Of Bygone Love” starts acoustically, triggering thoughts of loneliness. After the 2:30 mark, the song mines the metal ballad vein, complete with grandiose vocals.

Armageddon” closes with the instrumental “Your Day.” Other than giving each band member an opportunity to show their proficiency and engage in a bit of experimentation, the track adds little to the album.

Having listened to and reviewed ARIA’s two 2020 reissues, “Baptism By Fire” and “Armageddon,” I clearly prefer the later. Whereas “Baptism By Fire” incorporates NWOBHM elements, “Armageddon” has more of an overall NWOBHM sensibility.

Musicianship: 9
Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Lost Sunset
2. Marked By Evil
3. Guardian Of The Empire
4. The New Crusade
5. Messiah
6. The Blood Of Kings
7. Viking
8. Alien
9. The Light Of Bygone Love
10. Your Day
Lineup:
Mikhail Zhitnyakov – Vocals
Vladimir Kholstinin – Guitar
Sergey Popov – Guitar
Vitaly Dubinin – Bass
Maxim Udalov – Drums
Record Label: M2BA
     


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Edited 19 June 2021
 

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