Christopher Amott’s Armageddon
Chris Amott is tired of talking about Arch Enemy. I don’t know that for a fact, but it’s the sense I get when, during an online interview, he barely responded to any question referencing what was his bread and butter for nearly a decade.
“If it’s [Michael Amott’s career] affected my career in any way, it’s been in a positive way,” Amott said. “We are a great song-writing team.”
Perhaps his lips are zipped out of deference to his older brother and Arch Enemy founder, Michael, who maintains control over the female-fronted melodeath outfit. Or maybe it’s because he knows that he doesn’t need to use Arch Enemy to sell his latest project, the new Armageddon LP, Captivity and Devourment. For my money, it’s the best album to feature the name Amott since his brother’s mid-’90s tenure in Carcass.
This album will serve as an introduction to Armageddon for many listeners—it was for me. Amott began work on the project in the mid-9’0s as he was beginning in Arch Enemy, but it never got the same traction as his older brother’s project. The three previous Armageddon albums, 1997’s Crossing the Rubicon, 2000’s Embrace the Mystery and 2002’s Three were originally only released in Japan. Embrace the Mystery and Three, which featured Amott and Rickard Bengtsson on lead vocals in a fantastic power metal style, were re-released stateside by Century Media in 2009, but bear not so much resemblance to what Amott’s doing with the project over a decade later.
Captivity and Devourment reconciles the two prevailing styles of Swedish death metal. Amott’s songs rumble and stomp in a not-quite-death-and-roll groove space reminiscent of Dismember’s Massive Killing Capacity, especially on songs like “Locked In.” At the same time, Armageddon piles on the Gothenburg-style melody with plenty of shredding, clean guitar solos. The two sides of the band work in congress so that the compositions feel dramatic but not cheesy, such as the powerful closing minute of standout track “Equalizer.” “I guess it’s a bit of everything stylistically,” Amott said about the album. “I don’t think in terms of genres like that when I write, no musician does. This is just metal the way I want to hear it and write it. I did have some ideas going in, for example on the songs ‘Captivity & Devourment’ and ‘Equalizer,’ I wanted to write songs with many parts and a lot of changes to keep an intensity going throughout the track.”
Amott handled lead vocals on previous Armageddon albums. Here, he provides some clean singing, but rarely. “I had the urge to return to more intense music, and to focus more on guitar playing and arranging, rather than singing and writing lyrics. I wanted to write good, catchy metal, and I wanted to have a band where I could do less singing and focus more on riffing and soloing.” Newcomer Matt Hallquist delivers science fiction-themed lyrics in alternating shrieks and booming low vocals—clearly he’s of a metalcore background from his tenure in Under a Serpent Sun [http://uass.bandcamp.com/], but there’s no hardcore influence in the record to speak of. Captivity and Devourment reaches toward an unattainable but enviable goal—to sound classic.
“I never listen to new metal bands, ever. I don’t want to be influenced,” Amott said. “I stopped listening to new metal music in the ’90s and that’s probably why my songs sound the way they do. That’s my style, my influences. Honestly, some stuff that goes for metal today bores me and is somewhat foreign to me. Today I listen to pop music and anything that is a good song. Or I’m blasting the records I grew up with, Priest, Sabbath, Maiden, Slayer, Megadeth etc.”
Amott’s pop affinity comes as no surprise—he contributed a guest solo to the Babymetal song “Ijime, Dame, Zettai (Nemesis version).” Amott’s guest solo list extends beyond that, into tracks by In Flames, Shining, and Bloodshot Dawn (I really like that song) among others, as well as a forthcoming solo on the forthcoming Angelus Apatrida album. His frequent collaborations and infrequent membership in Arch Enemy suggest a restless spirit in the younger Amott. Further fuel for that fire: Amott’s closest conspirator on Captivity and Devourment is a formerly untested bassist, Sara Caludius.
“Sara I’ve known for years, she is a guitar player originally but offered to play bass in Armageddon,” he said, adding that Claudius was an integral part of the record’s concept as well. “She writes the majority of the lyrics in Armageddon, and also contributes to the music. We wrote the album together.” Claudius’s lyrics are a secret weapon in the band. While not exceptionally poetic, she knows how to put the listener in the mind of a solitary character, be it the stroke survivor of “Locked In,” or the last living human being in lead single “Fugitive Dust.”
The remainder of the current Armageddon lineup formed later in the game. “I met our guitar player Joey through giving guitar lessons, he was a student of mine for a short period. Like me, he is a blues-based player and can improvise freely and that’s the most important thing for me in a another guitarist. We speak the same language musically. He brought our singer Matt into the project, they are from the same area in Connecticut and have played shows locally together with their old bands.”
Even for a known entity like Amott, the cliche rock band struggles—like finding a drummer—are inescapable. “The hardest part was finding a drummer, we tried out three different players who didn’t fit before deciding to have a guy by the name of Nick Bunczk do the album as a session player. Finally I met Márton in NYC, he is from Hungary and used to play in classic Hungarian band Pokolgep.”
Armageddon seems finally poised to do some touring and offer Amott a slice of the market that he previously shared with his brother. Armageddon recently announced a nine-date East Coast tour, wherein they will play Captivity and Devourment in its entirety. It’s still early to foretell what might lie in the band’s future—this style of metal still moves units, even if it doesn’t garner rave reviews that much. Still, Amott is excellent at it. With Armageddon, he’s managed to come out of the shadows, both of the people he’s quietly contributed solos to as well as that of his older brother, even if he'll never admit that was the goal.
Armageddon Tour dates
2/7 Sammy's Patio - Revere, MA
2/8 Geno's Rock Club - Portland, ME
2/12 - Dunellen, NJ @ Roxy & Dukes
2/13 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Legendary Dobbs
2/14 Frederick, MD @ Guido's
2/16 - Wilmington, NC @ Cardinal Bands & Billiards
2/17 - Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
2/19 - Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
2/20 - Wallingford, CT @ Cherry Street Station