ARMAGEDDON, The Money Mask (1989, Talkingtown)
You have to admire the literality of this cover: the money mask is a decoupage skull made of five dollar bills. Is that supposed to make a statement about Lincoln or something? After all, Armageddon were from Civil War battleground town Falls Church, VA, and one of their guitarists was named Robby Lee. Hmm. Assuming there’s no confederate meaning intended by the cover, if this had been a real arts-and-crafts project (which might have made it the greatest big dumb skull of all time), the decision to use fivers would have made some economic sense, but if you’re commissioning a painting of a money mask, why not go all in? I have it on good authority that it’s all about the Benjamins, baby Jesus.
Is there a more effective and immediate descriptor to temper expectations than the words, “Christian metal”? Even when it’s good, it’s rarely great, and the good stuff isn’t exactly plentiful. Not unlike contemporaries Saint, Armageddon play a glossy take on mid 80s’ Accept and Priest: generally midpaced and ham-fisted to an Xtreme (the “X” is for Christ). Mike Vance’s melodic voice appealingly recalls Jon Oliva, but his low-end, Dirkschneiderian croak is tough to bear. The playing, songwriting, and production are all eminently professional, but there’s hardly a spark of passion (no pun intended) in this music. The faster numbers work best for me, and “We’re Outa Here” is the album-closing highlight, but all in all, The Money Mask sounds calculated to appeal to “the kids” who weren’t otherwise open to The Good News. I doubt that’s exactly how it happened, but that’s the vibe anyway. As an amusing aside, Joe Hasselvander, of Pentagram and Raven, played in Armageddon for a while, although I’m not sure if he’s on this album. You’ve got to love a guy working both sides of the aisle like that. No matter where he ends up when he dies, he’ll have an album on hand to put him in good graces with the new boss.
— Friar Johnsen