Reviewed by: Jim Willis
Upon first listen, you would swear that Armageddon USA never took a 25 year break. “Up In Flames” (2015) picks up right where they left off with “The Money Mask” (1989). However, there is certainly maturity with the technical delivery and songwriting, as well as Vance’s vocal delivery. While, during the 80’s, Vance was consistently reminiscent of Ron Keel, this new album sees him experimenting in multiple directions, my favorite of which is the exploration of DOOM ! Fans of Ozzy, David Benson, and Vic Griffin will love “Hypnotized”, “Crazy”, “Revolution (peace of mind)”, and “Wanted Man”. Early comparisons to Armored Saint, Metal Church, and Barren Cross can still be heard throughout, but variety is what makes this album unique and not just another cookie-cutter release. On this album you will find a variety of Doom, classic Armageddon sound, and classic Metal fused with 70’s hard rock (not to mention the hints of Robert Plant in the fun tune “Spinner” which I absolutely love !)
Returning for “Up In Flames” is Mike Vance on vocals and multi-instrumentalist Robby Lee. Also from their first album, Joe Hasselvander (Raven, Pentegram) takes on drum work as well as some bass and guitar tracks. Joe is not alone as Raven vocalist, John Gallagher, handles bass on three tracks. Rounding off this lineup is “Taker” member Robert Bussey on bass and guitar.
Originally known as “Second Chance” (as found on 1988’s EAST COAST METAL) they had to add “U.S.A.” to their band name in 2008 to distinguish them from other bands using the “Armageddon” name.
Lyrics carry similar topics from their first release of the corruption of money, Government, war and greed. While ‘The Money Mask’ tackled more subjects with Biblical answers, Up In Flames focuses more on the condemnation of this world’s greed and selfishness, with one song (“In Your Face”) bringing us the Truth that leads to “new life”. I definitely agree with the band’s website recommendation that this album is for those who love a sound, “distinctly heavy metal, with politicized lyrics that reveal the harsh ironies of modern life…”
I’ve spun this album 4 times through already and cannot find anything to dislike, save perhaps the mellow cut “Allies”. While it’s a needed and well-placed break, I find the taste of “Pink Floyd” on this album a bit too sleepy for me. The doomy tracks are a welcome surprise and I find myself hitting the repeat button often. There are also the occasional guitar solos, which I personally love.
“Up In Flames” is a must have to complete your “Best of 2015” albums.