Album Review: Armagh – “Venomous Frost”

Fans who thirst for 80’s and early 90’s metal might be thrilled to take a listen to Third Eye Temple’s latest release care of Polish newcomers, Armagh, and their first demo, the aptly-titled Venomous Frost.

Merging primitive, early black metal tremolo riffs with raw, catchy heavy metal riffs in the vein of early Swedish black/death metallers Necrophobic, Armagh shows a lot of promise on Venomous Frost. The band hardly blasts for long, playing a large dose of mid-tempo heavy metal paired with well-done black metal raspy singing that help fans recall a time in black metal history when the scene initially began taking shape, before bands like Emperor and Dissection added heavy doses of tremolo picking, melody and orchestral touches to what would eventually be known as second wave black metal in the mid-nineties.

While late first wave black metal influences show up on the first three songs on Venomous Frost, harkening back to Black Metal-era Venom, there’s also a pronounced early second wave influence that recalls the majesty of a band like Bathory. In essence, there’s no song on Venomous Frost that does not make use of a litany of influences. Track three, entitled “Warbeast”, while chugging and aggressive, does not blast end to end like most prototypical black metal circa second wave. It is this inclination to weave elements seamlessly without a pronounced attempt at catering to one or another, which showcases the primary strength of this throwback album, never being too obviously influenced by one thing or another, mixing elements cohesively enough to transport metal fans back to one of the most exciting periods in metal history, when history was literally being made.

There’s a lot of rock strumming and chunky power chord transitions on most of the songs that make up Venomous Frost. Track four, entitled “Foggy Dew/Wehrwolf”, starts off with a lead guitar accompaniment to the chugging rhythm guitar, and introduces a Pagan black metal influence.

Track five, “Dark Procession”, shows a greater tendency to use tremolo riffs in the Dissection vein. Track six, “Witchcraft”, a Bathory cover, is heavy on punk three-chord riffing. The vocals sound inundated while the guitars are obviously shoved way upfront. While a minor technicality and not altogether a deterrent to enjoying the music, the production also leaves the very well-executed lead guitar segment inundated by the rhythm guitar on the cover track, and is a slight disappointment for fans.

Track seven, title track “Venomous Frost”, returns the listening session back to mid-tempo heavy metal strumming. The song is catchy, and the lyrics and bridge sections feature some good songwriting, with the nice touches of melody coming at well-timed junctures in the song.

So, ultimately, fans will ask the questions — what are the album’s merits; who will most likely appreciate what Armagh has to offer, and what more can we expect of this little-known band from Warsaw, Poland? Venomous Frost has a good dose of quality heavy metal riffs and the raw production captures that element the best. The vocalist doesn’t just screech or growl along and actual lyrics are paired well with the music. Fans of bands like Necrophobic and Bathory will appreciate Venomous Frost, and while the album does a good job of bringing retro elements together in an entertaining package, fans also have a lot to look forward to with Armagh’s future releases. The trajectory is clearly favorable for expectations that the band will significantly progress in future efforts, assuming the band adopts some experimentation with their musical style while retaining some of the best elements used here. The band should utilize more lead guitar in future albums, as their Bathory cover featured a lead section that stood out, in spite of it being buried behind the rhythm guitar in the mix. The songwriting on Venomous Frost is off to a good start, and should the band progress as musicians, the songwriting should expectedly improve in quality on future releases. One other merit worth mentioning is the band’s avoidance of distracting ambient sections, intros, or interludes. The album title is also quite telling. The Venom influence mixes well with early black metal touches on the record, and is clearly a good selling point for the band’s album.I would clearly emphasize a distinctly better choice in acquiring an LP version of this album to fans, should the format be made available. Fans who like hard-to-find albums of worthwhile content and quality will relish the investment of acquiring an album on hardcopy.

Raw, retro metal treasure trove hunters should definitely check this out. Anyone with casual interest in the aforementioned influences will find this sufficiently entertaining, if not altogether obvious as essential listening. Metal done well is not a moot point, and fans of retro metal will make clawed gestures with their hands while barking at the moon and listening to this album.

– Al Necro

Venomous Frost is available now through Third Eye Temple. For more information on Armagh, visit the band’s official Facebook page.


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