I was glad to find this album available on CD because I had been a fan of The Yardbirds since my high school days and I knew of Keith Relf's involvement with Armageddon. What I didn't know was that former Captain Beyond drummer Bobby Caldwell was also on this album. So that was a thrill to discover since I loved his work on the Captain's debut album.
As the story goes, Keith Relf left The Yardbirds along with Jim McCarty because they wanted to get away from the heavy direction Jimmy Page was taking the band and Relf was interested in doing more acoustic-centred work. He formed the original version of Renaissance with McCarty but after two albums he left and went on to produce for a few bands. One of his last productions was an album for Steamhammer and along with two of the members of that band, Relf left for California. There the three found Bobby Caldwell who had played in Captain Beyond alongside Iron Butterfly alumni Lee Dorman and Larry Reinhardt and Deep Purple MK I vocalist Rod Evans. They formed Armageddon and recorded this one-time album.
"Armageddon" is listed as both hard rock and progressive rock, though I believe the hard rock sound is more obvious. The fact that four of the five songs are over 8 minutes long would suggest a prog act and it's true that the longer songs wander outside the standard rock song format, but much of the length is taken up by jam sessions and extended guitar solos.
This album is mostly a hard rock affair with some great riffs, excellent guitar solos and Caldwell's phenomenal drumming. I do find the songs less engaging than Captain Beyond, however. Maybe that's because the Captain's debut was mostly short and blistering rockers and avoided long instrumental solo sections. Only "Silver Tightrope" steers clear of the hard rocking groove the band have going for most of the album. It is slightly reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" but for me it's much less enjoyable because "The Rain Song" builds and progresses while this song just maintains the same slow flow. The gentle electric guitar riffs seem to go on for a couple of minutes more than necessary.
The other four tracks "Buzzard", "Paths and Planes and Future Gains" (two very awesome guitar riffs here), "Last Stand Before", and the four-part "Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun" are focused on hard rocking guitar music which to my ears sounds, very generally speaking, similar to Led Zeppelin's "Presence" album, particularly the song "Nobody's Fault but Mine". The music has that funky blues sound and the guitar sound similar as well. Real gritty distortion is only used between the 8:30 and 9:30 minute mark of "Basking...", at the end of part c) "Brother Ego".
As Relf played harmonica with The Yardbirds, it's not surprise to hear a little bit of mouth harp here as well. It fits in with the music well enough. The weakest point, I am afraid to say, is Keith Relf's vocals. It's not that his singing is particularly bad (except at the opening of "Silver Tightrope") but it doesn't have the power required for the music. Furthermore, I find his vocals a bit lost in the mix, meaning that the music seems louder than his voice. There is, however, one point that I am not clear on and that is who is doing the vocals at the beginning of "Buzzard". It sounds like someone is trying to imitate a young Lemmy Kilmister. When I first heard this I couldn't imagine that this was Keith Relf singing and I still can't as the rest of the album is sung in his recognizable voice.
It's unfortunate that Armageddon collapsed soon after the album was released but more so is the tragedy that Keith Relf died by electrocution soon after returning to the UK. I wonder if he would have taken part in The Yardbirds reunion that occurred with Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja in the 1990's or if he would have been part of the Box of Frogs project in the 1980's with McCarty, Dreja, and Yardbird's bassist Paul Samwell-Smith?
So here it is anyway. Armageddon's one album. Quite a good listen for many reasons and almost worth three and a half stars in my opinion. But I don't take this album out to listen to so much now that I am familiar with it.