Armagh - Official Website

Exclamation Po​!​nt

Poland Country of Origin: Poland

1. Rough Edges
2. Masters Of Time
3. Aftermath
5. Between The Sides
6. The Portal
7. Rapid Str!de
8. This !s New A
9. Enough For Now

Review by Greg on March 25, 2024.

While Poland can be historically associated with its death and thrash metal scenes, with several extremely well-known acts having originated and established within its borders, that's not to say it lacks dudes trying something different all around the country, obviously. Armagh, spearheaded by Vengeance's Galin Soulreaper, is something of an oddity even under these premises. Their style of choice is a peculiar meeting point between '70s/'80s traditional heavy metal and prominent black metal sensibilities. Having gathered not a single idea on what something like that would even sound like, I dove into their brand-new third LP Exclamation Po!nt without any kind of preconceptions. Wow, I can't remember the last time I found myself in this situation... and the perplexing artwork, where I catch more and more strange details the more I look at it, didn't help matters.

So, for the uninitiated, a good starting place for comparisons would be some of the cult NWOBHM bands, like Satan (especially their new millennium stint) or Angel Witch (the overlooked "Screamin' n' Bleedin'" album). The former is substantially justified by some of the speedier numbers, like the couple that excellently introduces the album. 'Rough Edges' is a driving up-tempo number that is almost unbelievable in its faithfulness to that distant, aforementioned era. Even then, 'Masters Of Time' is already the definitive gem of Exclamation Po!nt: anthemic in its first minute, before giving way to another speedy onslaught, again with the guitars of Galin and his partner in crime Vikk Vandall offering lots of great stuff. But the surprises don't end here, as the song transforms once again into a more melodic section, heralded by the most Black Sabbath-ian riff Tony Iommi never wrote, and climaxing in another solo and emotional ending. It's a simply astonishing song and you would be doing yourself a disservice by not listening to it right now.

Galin's vocals are on a different plane, being a humbler, more Ozzy-like persona (not as quirky, but definitely with the same cadence). It's not a detriment per se. In the absence of any kind of commanding presence at the mic, as well as a truly killer chorus every once in a while taking over the reins, the band often lets the riffs do the talking, even more so when the pace slows down. 'Aftermath' and 'The Portal' take us back to a time when guitarists were able to make their guitars sing, in the word's literal sense. I'm honestly convinced that you could show either of those tracks to your average metalhead, oblivious to the release date, and they would lament, with slight traces of moisture appearing in their eyes: 'you could write stuff like that only in 1981. Those were the days!' or something akin. Especially the guitar lines on 'The Portal' are among the most beautiful things I've ever heard, plain and simple.

I've seen some people argue that Armagh can't seem to choose a road to follow altogether, and I can understand where they're coming from. Everything written above applies to a good 80% of Exclamation Po!nt, while the rest are the aforementioned black metal influences. Two or three tracks employ blast-beats and the good ol' tremolo picking, and, while the vocals don't usually follow suit, these detours still struggle to blend with the mainframe, sort of "ruining" the convincingly accurate immersion within the '80s landscape that the rest of the album tries, and manages, to build. Surely 'Rapid Str!de' and 'Between The Sides' could be imagined as the equivalent of those proto-metal tracks from the days of old, even though the drums are way too fast and tight to believe it. But it's not a matter of historical accuracy, as much as they simply don't offer the same amount of enjoyment the highlights provide. The exception is represented by penultimate song 'This !s New A', mainly because it's a compendium of everything Armagh has to offer – building from softer verses that could almost make Rush or Blue Öyster Cult spring to mind, all the way to another frantic finale.

Enough for now (lol). A few late missteps do not hinder the whole experience, especially when 'Masters Of Time' is such a monstruous tune, 'Aftermath' and 'The Portal' are just too deliciously nostalgic to be overlooked, and overall Exclamation Po!nt is an album I'm coming back to more often than I expected, severe inconsistencies aside. An interesting listen through and through.

Rating: 8 out of 10