How many Cypriot metal bands can you name right away? Or even better, how many bands being active for 29 years without any full-length album released you can think of? Maybe it’s a piece of cake for someone to come up with answer, but I was in the dark and couldn’t have managed any coherent response to this until now. Still, it’s never late to learn. Skimming through available promos to review, I’ve found these guys, Armageddon Rev. 16:16, and now if some wandering stranger runs across me in the street and poses one of two questions I wrote few lines earlier, I will be able to put that superior look on my face.
Jokes aside, my first acquaintance with Cypriot metal scene turned out to be quite pleasant. With Sundown on Humanity, band curiously blends such musical styles as power metal, hard rock with the progressive insertions here and there and a considerable dose of heaviness. Jimmy Mavrommatis does not spare himself on vocals, letting out some powerful screams throughout the record, Kikis A. Apostolou and Elias A. Andreou provide confident lead and rhythm guitars, Nikolas Papaeftychiou is playing bass and Kerry Elgar, recently replaced by Evangelos Varnava, is behind the drum-kit. While it’s no big secret some metal bands omit keyboards in their records, Armageddon went with another route and invited a couple of guest musicians, one of them being Bob Katsionis (Firewind), who recorded keyboards, guitar and also mixed and mastered the album. His work production-wise deserves a praise; the sound is aggressive enough while still clear and not exhausting to listen. Other guests are Nicholas Leptos (Arrayan Path, Warlord), Tasos Karonias (R.U.S.T.) and Andreas Paraschos (Blynd), all contributing on vocals.
After two weeks of extensive listening to Sundown of Humanity, I couldn’t help but divide the album into a few parts in my head. The record kicks off with a short E.K. 40 (Intro), instrumental tune which is based on a neat riff and has a cinematic feeling to it. This track conjures the general mood of the album, and it’s quite simple. But the follow-up, Human Sundown, has none of it. Unusually dark in comparison with other pieces, it also has a chaotic structure which is quite difficult to grasp on your first few listens. There are plenty of surprises, such as the first two lines are being sung in silence, and the abrupt ending. The wonderful thing is it all clicks after some time and now I think it’s a brilliant transition into Shades of Tomorrow. You can imagine this piece being on Axel Rudi Pell album. It’s more friendly and accessible, more on a power metal side, and the last line is delivered with such a deep, satisfying, soulful voice, I’m excited to hear it every time this song comes up. It concludes the first imaginary part with a soothing, calming tone, logically closing an incredibly strong sequence of songs.
The next movement in my book consists of four quite similar yet very different songs. Both Strange Dreams and Fallen Angels and Lost Souls are unmistakably heavy, yet the former takes a fast-paced approach with a bunch of high-pitched vocals, while the latter is slower and filled with crushing riffs. The band makes a bold decision and uses some harsh growls on this one. And, surprisingly, they appear on Hypocrites of Destruction too, but only as the backing vocals. This tune, however, could be perfectly described as happy metal, or as yet another unexpected choice from the band to change the atmosphere radically. It’s almost dripping with happiness, and the first guitar chords of New Day Will Come also lures the listener into a false sense of security. I totally expected another cheerful song in my headphones, and so I was fooled. Tragic, almost desperate vocals in the verses are flowing into a wondrous blend of pop-rock vocals alternating with sprawling and gorgeous lines. And as icing on the cake, the chorus is followed by restrained, clean yet enormously beautiful and evocative section. After all the energy, this part sounds like all the world froze for a moment, only to awake and come to life again the new day. My only complaint about this song is the audible squeaks in the right channel during the choruses, and it is also the only production flaw I can think of.
Then, and I count it as the third movement, comes up 13-Seventh Eleven, which is an intriguing union of heavy and progressive metal, with a number of curious pace-changes incorporated in only five minutes. It’s rather hard to predict where this piece is going, which heats the interest. Unfortunately, on the following songs the record becomes a little repetitive. Why starts with whistling, and it has a striking resemblance to one certain famous Scorpions song. Aside from whistles, the tune sounds quite similar to Strange Dreams. Heavy Metal is a hymn to a certain music genre with expectedly straightforward lyrics. Don’t let the title deceive you though, there are much heavier songs out there. The penultimate song of the album is United, which shares the lyrics’ simplicity with its predecessor, while musically it’s more a brother of Hypocrites of Destruction.
Despite a certain weaknesses of the last few pieces, album ends on a very high note with Icy Blackness (Kursk), the title could also be seen as a clever wordplay (I see blackness). This song is dedicated to a crew of Russian submarine named “Kursk”, perished in the Barents Sea. The part in the beginning obviously belongs to one of the crew members, spoken by Petros Leptos (Solitary Sabred) in English with a thick accent. Perhaps there was a point of recording it in Russian language, because the accent stands in the way of creating a haunting atmosphere to me. However, the guitars and something that sounds suspiciously like balalaika settle that matter. The speed significantly rises then and you get drawn into a whirlpool of various emotions, like bravery, panic and in the end, when pace slows, a resignation to a dreadful fate. Definitely a highlight of band’s work.
Sundown on Humanity will not leave you gaping in awe on whatever your sight was fixed during the listening. It also won’t make your jaw drop or mind explode from the amount of awesomeness contained in the songs. Yet it provides you an opportunity to plunge into depths of solid metal for an hour, with few sudden deviations along the way. The guys didn’t break any new grounds with it, but proved they are capable of pulling together an album packed with decent songs.