Released By: AFM Records
Release Date: October 8th, 2021
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal
Samuel Nyman – Vocals
Henrik Stenroos – Guitars
Kenny Boufadene – Bass
André Holmqvist – Drums
1. Burn in Hell
3. Slaves of Babylon
4. Forged in Metal
5. Chains of Fury
6. Evil Soul
7. Path to the Unknown
8. Master of Pain
10. The Inevitable End
There are some albums where after hearing them multiple times, I’ll continuously go back to revisit either one particular track or a sequence of tracks, and be left thinking to myself how much more I’d like the entire album if everything else could reach that same level. This happened to me with Purgatorio, the previous release by Swedish heavy/power metal band Manimal, with its super strong opening track “Black Plague” in particular bowling me over, and while the rest of that album was solid, the second half largely lost my attention and left me wishing I enjoyed it even half as much as the first few tracks. When I saw the band getting ready to release their next album, I was hoping they could release an album where everything impressed me, but suffice to say, their fourth and latest full length album, Armageddon, has given me the same feeling as its immediate predecessor.
Which isn’t to say it’s not a good album: It definitely is enjoyable from start to finish, but as with Purgatorio, I find once I reach a certain point in the album, my enjoyment no longer reaches the high level it was at earlier on. As with previous albums, Armageddon is primarily a hard hitting, mid paced heavy metal album, heavily influenced by genre legends Judas Priest, with the few speedier tracks in particular feeling like a mix between Painkiller era Priest and Primal Fear, and those tend to be my favorites on the album. The slower stuff alternates between being very dark and heavy, sometimes having slight alternative metal influences, as well as occasionally falling into more modern melodic metal territory, somewhat like Brainstorm on some of their calmer tracks. I tend to enjoy the latter tracks quite a bit, while some of the darker, heavier tracks leave me unfulfilled.
With that being said, though, performances are strong across the board, with guitarist Henrik Stenroos delivering some killer riffs and excellent solos, all in classic heavy metal fashion, while the rhythm section of bassist Kenny Boufadene and drummer André Holmqvist is very strong, as usual. Vocalist Samuel Nyman remains the highlight of the band, though, as his very animated, intense vocals give the music a very strong classic metal feel in the best way possible, and while his wails are certainly powerful, his calmer vocals are also excellent, and help elevate some of the more melodic tracks. He’s consistently excellent throughout the album, and he’s my favorite thing about the band, as usual, aside from one particular section I’ll point out later on, though that is more a matter of personal taste, than anything else. Production is also strong across the board, as always, and everything sounds great.
I’ve always been a bit iffy with Manimal’s songwriting, being largely unimpressed by Trapped in Shadows, while Purgatorio blew me away in the first half, then lost me a bit in the second half. Armageddon is on about the same level as the latter, except perhaps even a tad more extreme. The first half is easily the best work I’ve ever heard from the band, delivering highlight after highlight and offering up a wide variety of tracks, but unfortunately the second half lacks variety and the songwriting simply feels less inspired, with one particular song standing out as easily the worst.
We’ll start off positively, though, with the first half. “Burn in Hell” is a solid opener, starting off with a very moody intro, before slowly coming in with some heavy guitars and a slow opening verse. It picks up intensity as it goes along, delivers a strong catchy chorus, and allows Nyman to shine immediately. The solo in the second half delivers the goods, and overall it’s a very solid track that gives a good indication of what to expect from the album.
Next is the title track, the first of three speedier tracks on the album. This one in particular gives very strong Primal Fear vibes, with a killer main riff, fast and furious drums, slow but powerful verses, a fast and fun chorus and one of the best solo sections on the album. Two tracks later is “Forged in Metal”, which instantly reminds me of Painkiller, moving slightly slower than the title track, but still fast paced, and it has possibly the best main riff on the album, as well as a very fun, energetic chorus, fantastic vocals and a great solo section. It is probably my favorite of the bunch here. The final speedy track is “Evil Soul”, coming right at the start of the second half. While I find it slightly less enjoyable than the other two, it’s still a strong track on its own, opening up with some nice melodic guitar work before going full speed ahead, and it has some excellent instrumental work throughout, particular the solo section which has a very classic Euro power metal sound to it, but I wish the chorus was more than just repeating the title over and over again, which is the one thing that causes it to fall behind some of the other tracks here.
On the slower side, “Slaves of Babylon” is a nice track with a slight hard rock feel to it, also being one of the few tracks here where the keyboards are noticeable in spots, adding a bit of extra atmosphere. It’s rather laid back compared to most tracks here, but it still has some great instrumental work and vocals, with the chorus in particular being great. Two tracks later is “Chains of Fury”, which has a bit of a more modern feel to it, and delivers another one of the best main riffs on the album paired up with some of Nyman’s angriest, most intense vocals, and another excellent chorus. It’s easily my favorite of the slower tracks, and if the second half had anything this good, I’d be very happy with the album.
Sadly, things fall off a bit starting with “Path to the Unknown”. It actually starts off promising, with some slightly eerie sounding keyboards that give the music a dark feel, while the main riff and vocals are a bit subdued in a way that feels similar to modern Kamelot, which is quite the change of pace. The chorus is quite nice, and the track is very good, up until the last 80 seconds or so, where the riffs take a more alt metal turn, and Nyman starts doing some very angry sounding rap, and that’s when my ears decide they’ve had enough. My tolerance for rap in general is very low, and these vocals towards the end of the track really disagree with my ears, to say the least. Too bad, because I honestly do like the rest of the track, but that ending completely kills it for me.
Following that kind of big letdown, I was hoping either for something speedier to get my energy back up, or something lighter and more melodic to calm me down and take away the bad tastes. Sadly, “Master of Pain” offers neither of those, instead proving to be one of the darkest, most punishing tracks on the album. It’s quite possible I’d enjoy it isolated from the album, though I have yet to attempt that, and listening to it in sequence, my ears are already beaten up from the end o f the previous track, and so I never get much enjoyment out of the brutal riffs, equally brutal chorus and total lack of any memorable melodies.
The album does recover, thankfully, and while the last two tracks can’t quite match the first half highlights, they do help end the album on a more positive note. “Insanity” is a nice, mid tempo heavy metal track with a more modern sound to it, feeling similar to Brainstorm at points, and it has a nice rhythm section, as well as some of Nyman’s lighter vocals, and a very strong chorus that helps finally win me back after the previous two tracks. Closing track “Inevitable End” is the strongest in the second half, infused with some nice modern keyboards in the background, and it moves along at a nice pace, with some strong riffs and a very strong chorus, where Nyman delivers some of his best vocals on the album. It doesn’t match the energy or intensity levels of my favorite songs, but it’s a very fun track, and a nice way to close out the album.
Overall, Armageddon is a slightly frustrating release, as it starts off so strong, with a diverse mix of intense heavy metal, some speedy, energetic power metal and some fantastic vocals, only for the second half to fall off quite a bit, just like its immediate predecessor. However, performances are strong across the board, and there’s more than enough great stuff here to easily recommend it, especially for heavy metal fans and anyone looking for harder edged classic metal, with a bit of a modern touch to it. It’s also worth noting the few parts that bother me may potentially work for others, which could potentially elevate it from a solid album, to an excellent one, Regardless, Manimal have once again delivered an entertaining album, with a few tracks in particular I know for sure I’ll be revisiting for many years to come, which is all I can ask for from them. I hope they eventually release an album I love from start to finish, but as is, this is still probably my favorite from them, so far.
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.