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ARMOROS - Pieces (2015) CD

ARMOROS - Pieces (2015) CD
Brand: High Roller
Product Code: CD
Availability: In Stock
Price: 13.68€ 6.58€
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Armoros from Victoria, British Columbia, are the best proof that music history is often written by pure accident. If it hadn't been for a shitload of bad luck, the Canadians would definitely be counted among the most important names in the Thrash Metal Hall of Fame. Yes. We mean it.
Guitarist Mike Sudar and vocalist/bassist Rick Lee take us on a deep dive into the band's history and tell how everything came to pass...
Armoros formed in 1985, and they were as young as they were hungry. Mike: “I was only 16 when I formed ARMOROS. I was excited that I was able to learn and play the songs of my favorite bands at that time. The mid 80's to me was the rise of Heavy Metal, and we wanted to ride its wave.”
Already at the very beginning, Armoros went through a couple of line up changes; Rick being part of in the band is just one result of this: “Well, I joined Armoros during the recording of the “Debut Assault” Demo… I remember being in the university recording studio (which was pretty archaic) and being really excited to witness the process. I had been a guitar player for a while and had ambitions of my own. Then during the recording of the bass parts it was evident Todd Verch wasn't up to the task…so...they asked me to “fill in”. After I said SURE! I thought “Ok Rick, think like a bass player”, and I found that part in “Winds from Baccatta” just after the drum break that NEEDED a bass run to bring it back into the riff...Then they asked me to join. That’s probably one of my favorite memories of the very early days.”
Mike and Terry Groom (drums) started out as a cover band under the moniker “Chrystknife”, playing mainly Scorpions, Iron Maiden and Metallica, until one day, Mike came up with the name “Armoros”: “The band as a collective whole went out one afternoon searching book stores for interesting subjects – and I stumbled across ARMOROS in a book about angels. He was one of the fallen.” What tipped the balance to form a full-blown trash metal band? Was it listening a lot to bands like Exodus, Slayer, Dark Angel and the likes? Mike: “I was heavily influenced by early thrash bands and eventually requested, we as a band, learn Slayer's Black Magic. I think it was the first time Terry threatened to quit as he felt it was too fast and abrasive. Slowly I turned them over to the dark side...mua ha ha.” Rick adds: “I was hearing underground metal like Exodus, Slayer, Culprit, Venom… I got it all from a good friend of mine that was really into tape trading. I'm not sure what the other guys were listening too in the early days, but I think it was just a natural evolution. The more exposed to that stuff we became, the more we wanted to play it. You have to remember, very few people had heard of Metallica in those days… especially any bands in our area. So the heaviest you would get would be “The Zoo” by the Scorpions... The other bands in town thought we were complete shit!!”
I read the band log book Terry posted on facebook. It tells the story of how he and Mike got together to form Armoros (meeting at a Metallica show) and it also paints a colourful picture of the early ups and downs in the band’s career, before and while recording the first Demo “Debut Assault“ in1986. Armoros really wanted to make it big, right? Mike on this: „First and foremost, we wanted to be a band. I think any artist has a dream of success; having your art appreciated, wanted & seen or heard.“ Rick’s answer is a bit less modest: “I did...I wanted to be in a successful band, writing our own material, putting out records, touring and making a living… when your young, you dream of huge success, money and all that, but I think we all would have been content just paying the rent if we could just write music together. That’s why I have great respect for Brother Jed… he was able to do just that!” Jed Simon, another founding member of Armoros, looks back on a career as a guitarist playing in bands such as Zimmers Hole, Strapping Young Lad and Devin Townsend. But let’s get back to Armoros and “Pieces”! The Canadians’ one and only full-length album contains the songs of the second and third demo and two songs that were newly written. While Mike was the primary riff writer and Rick the main lyricist, all members of the band came together on the arrangements. Everyone contributed something. Rick: “Ya, that’s right, except for the odd thing like the lyrics of “Apparition of Force” which Terry wrote, or the beginning intro of “Remember Michelle” which i wrote. Most of the Riffs would come from Mike, and we would work them out as a band in rehearsal to get a rough arrangement. Jed was a major contributor for arrangements if I remember right. And then I would go home and write the lyrics. Sometimes I would get song ideas or little bits of lyric ideas from the guys. So yes, Mike wrote most of the music and I wrote most of the lyrics but it was truly a group effort.”
As mentioned above, it took a while to get the right line-up together before recording “Pieces” – it seems like Armoros were a bit relentless when it came to replacing people who were not fully up to the task. Mike and Rick explain Armoros’ membership policy: “A band is like a jig saw puzzle, all the right pieces must fit in the right place. It is hard to meet people that share a same vision and passion... it was even harder at that time, when speed metal was pretty much unknown.” Rick: “Well, we had a very small pool of musicians to recruit. Nobody in our area was playing the style of music we were aiming for. Our biggest problem was a singer; we had the band, but after Kevin left, it was really hard to find a suitable singer. We tried a few guys out but it just wasn't happening…that’s how I became the singer, by default…I just got too tired of looking and said “Screw it guy's, I'll do it!!”. Even up to the end I was always keeping an eye out hoping someone else would pop up so I didn't have to do it.” Interesting that Rick did the vocals almost reluctantly. Now, how do the two remember the recordings for “Pieces”? According to Mike, it all had to be done in a rush: “Recording “Pieces” was not under an ideal situation. We had a 24- or 48-hour slot to record the whole album. Meaning we had to block our performance times through out the day & night. I remember being woken very early in the morning to record guitar solos. I was so disoriented and nowhere prepared mentally for truly great performances.” Rick on recording:
“That album took a lot of doing... We used the studio time we won in the battle of the bands and then had to come up with the rest of the money. We found an investor for the hard costs (2''tape reels), and our publishers got us a grant, but it still wasn't enough. Anyway, we managed to get the financing together. Then we had to go to Vancouver to Profile Studios and record in a very short amount of time… usually after-hours – it was very tiring. Then we had a few technical problems (there is a reason why “Critical Mass” ends like that…). In the end we got it done, but it wasn't easy!!” Regardless of all that, the unprepared listener is completely floored by the quality of “Pieces” – the guitars deliver a firework of fast attacking, galloping or well-paced catchy riffs, obviously well thought-out solos and licks, sometimes played in a murderous thrash twin-guitar style, and the rhythm section does an amazing job, too. Oh, and did I mention the stunningly skilful use of rhythms and tempo changes? You see, pure rapture on my part. How old were all the guys in Armoros when you started the band, and did any of them have some kind of professional music background? Mike: “Thanks! Glad you like! I don't believe any of us had that much musical training. We were just meant to play thrash!! I just started playing guitar around the age of 12. Iron Maiden, Sabbath & Scorpions inspired me to play & learn!” Rick: “I joined the band when I was about 21. Jed and I were the old guys in the band. None of us had any real musical schooling. If it sounds like we did, it's purely from hard work...we used to work really hard on those songs. Mike and Jed would work out their duel solo's, while Terry and I used to work things out just for the drum and bass parts...hell, we even tuned the drums to the bass a couple of times!”
Someone tried to tie it all together by calling your music “brutal almost-death-but-not-quite-thrash.” I think that’s too narrow a view, don’t you think? Mike: „We seem to always fall under the label thrash or speed metal. Call it what you will, it's all about banging your head and raising your horns!“ Rick: “I think we evolved like all bands should. In the beginning, we were quite simple yet catchy metal, as on ‘Debut Assault’. Then we started to get heavier and faster, as on ‘Resurrecdead’ and ‘Remember Michelle’. Then we got a little more brutal with songs like ‘Forever Hold Your Pieces’ and ‘CMDK’. When we got back together in ’92, we were a little technical yet heavy because we had grown as musicians. So to me, we were a thrash band but we had some depth to us as well.”
Some definite highlights of the album are “Euphoria” with its massive mid-tempo beginning and “Dementia” with its speedy guitar runs. What do Rick and Mike remember about these songs, and do they have any favourite songs themselves? Mike: “Dementia was the first song I wrote after we had finished the Debut Assault demo. It was a natural progression of my riffing & song writing style. It was to be my Mercyful Fate's ‘Satan's Fall’.” Rick on Dementia: “‘Dementia’ was the first song written with me in the band. I remember doing the punch part in the middle and thinking, “Ya, I can work with these guys, this is awesome!”. Then Kevin left and we had no lyrics for it, so I rewrote them which kinda foreshadowed how things would be. For some reason I never was comfortable singing them though and that’s why Jed sings that song. As for favorites, I have a few I like more than others, and a few I'm not that fond of…but overall I'm very proud of our body of work.”
At the end of “The Dead”, there are some quite spooky samples – what’s that? Voices from the dead? Mike: “We had our buddies come in and moan & scream for several minutes. Double them up a couple times & you have an orgy of the dead!” Rick: “That was great fun to do...It was probably the highlight of the recording to have all our buddies from different bands there, acting like zombies.”
In the demo version, “Autopsy (Dementia)” used to be a 7 minutes track. Some people find this track the highlight of the album; Mike explains why it had to be cut down to a good 5 minutes: “We were limited by how much tape time we had on the rolls. Something needed to be sacrificed and unfortunately it was Autopsy.”
Given that it was recorded in such a rush, is there anything Armoros would like to change about “Pieces” if they got the chance? It’s rumoured that Mike is not fully satisfied with the way the bass was mixed, is that true? Mike: „I personally would have loved to have seen the album remixed a bit more to today's production values. I have a big appreciation to how music production and sonics have advanced in the recording industry. I think Rick's bass was a little too heavily gated at times, and there are too many overdubs that were raised a bit to high in the mix.” Rick, too, would have wished for a slightly different outcome: “For me the album sounds like a long version of our demo's. I would have liked a better production overall, but given the time we had to do it in, it was impossible to take the time to make that happen...The re-mastered version on the High Roller release really helps to bring out that quality I would have liked to see to life!”
“Pieces” should have been released by the Seattle-based label Ever Rat, but they went bankrupt and couldn’t do it – What happened right after the band had been told that Ever Rat won’t release the album? Mike: “We were pissed!” Rick elaborates on the whole debacle: “Well, we were bummed out for sure, but our publishing company told us they were going to shop it around, so we had hope... We moved to Vancouver and the band ended up falling apart.” Despite that hard blow to the band’s hope and existence, “Pieces” found its way into the world through tape trading, growing into an underground phenomenon. But one thing is for sure: If “Pieces” had come out in 1988, Armoros would have mad it BIG! What’s Mike’s and Rick’s personal opinion on that? Mike: “I completely agree and really appreciate that!“ Rick: “I agree as well... “Pieces” would have been the beginning!! If you heard the stuff we were writing after the album was recorded you'd have to agree that ‘Pieces’ was the foundation of what could have been a world-class band. Just check out “A crown of Thorns” on Jed's Tenet album, although I like our version better… but I'm biased. Some of the riffs from that time ended up on our 92' demo but it's not the same ...we were on fire at the end of the band’s life.”
From what I know, Armoros were a bunch of totally devoted maniacs – reportedly they all moved into a house together, to make rehearsing easier. True or false? Mike: “We did indeed move in together, not only to grow together as a band & as friends, but to save some money & time. And to have a place to party!” Rick: “Yes, we were SERIOUS!!...we all knew it had to happen to make us the band we wanted to be. We had a lot of wild parties (I’ve still got the footage), we fought with each other and we had a lot of laugh and some tears, too. It was an interesting time and amongst it all we became a band.”
Before recording “Pieces”, the four-piece already had released three demos (and a bootleg live album, if that counts). How much of a scene was there in Victoria, BC back then, and what role did Armoros play in the then-unfolding Canadian Metal Scene, including bands such as Witches Hammer, Karrion, Infernäl Mäjesty, Annihilator, Razor, Exciter…? Mike again: “There was a good live/bar scene in Victoria at that time, but thrash metal was just surfacing, and very few were yet exposed to it. That is until they started coming out to our shows. I think this was starting to happen slowly all over the cities of the world.” Rick goes a bit more into detail about what the scene was like: “Well, in the early days it was mostly hard rock cover bands that might play a couple of their own tunes…but by the mid 80's, a few Metal bands started popping up, as well as Punk. You'd gig with Karrion...then do a gig with the Dayglo Abortions or The Accüsed....then Witches Hammer ....then we would get a gig in the Seattle area and meet Forced Entry or Death Squad...and before you know it there WAS a thriving live Metal and Punk scene in the Pacific Northwest...and after time some of the eastern Metal bands came to gig in BC. Looking back you realize what a scene there really was, but at the time you’re just working it and having a good time. I don't think we really played a role in it, I think we were just another band that, given some opportunities, could have played a role in it. I am so glad that High Roller is giving us the opportunity to bring our music to more people.”
The next two demos “Resurrecdead” (1987) and “Remember Michelle” (1988) brought Armoros some decent attention around the world, with reviews in Kerrang! and Metal Forces, but according to Mike, most important for getting known was the global tape trading scene: “We would not have been exposed to the world if it were not for the underground tape trading scene!” Rick thinks just the same: “Absolutely!! You know, there was no internet, so I took 10 names from the back of Metal Forces and sent them all a demo for free...all I asked of them was to send a letter telling me what they thought – Thankfully they liked it!! And that’s how we did things: grass roots. When we got that great review in Metal Forces, people started writing us wanting demos. There was a time there where we had quite the operation, but that’s how everybody had to do it.”
Victoria, BC is a bit out in the sticks, at least from a European perspective, so did it play a big role for Armoros to come from that part of Canada? Mike and Rick disagree on that. Mike: “I'm not sure we are that remote, although we were on an island, our city is the capital of British Columbia.” Rick sees things a bit differently: “Being from Victoria, BC was the single biggest factor for me as to why we didn't get our record out and the ball rolling for our career… If we had formed in Vancouver I think we would have had a few more options and opportunities. The fact that our music has had this much longevity coming from Victoria still amazes me.”
Armoros came to open for Dark Angel, among others, and their shows had a reputation for being wild and crashing. Mike and Rick dig for their favourite memories regarding Armoros live shows. Mike: “It was an honour opening for many renowned acts. I think our problem was, and although it was fun, we often had too much too drink before our performances. I fondly remember, we were playing a show in Vancouver and broadcasting live for a midnight radio broadcast, and we were very intoxicated, obnoxious, and sloppy...!” Rick has some more fun memories to add: “The intensity!! That and my little yellow dog joke... Back then we didn't have spare guitars so that if we broke a string you could just pick up another one. Instead you had to re-string the one guitar you had, and that takes time… so to fill that time, I used to tell this really long joke I had heard on a TV show in the 70's. It had a really stupid punch line and at the end, the looks on their face used to crack me up...string got changed...we occupied the audiences time…mission accomplished.” Armoros also made a second place in a “Battle of the Bands” competition in Vancouver, winning the studio time they used for recording “Pieces”. Common knowledge has it that Karrion won that competition, but Mike knows better: It was a Vancouver band named Ogre who made the first place.
Armoros disbanded shortly after the disaster with Ever Rat. Was ending the band a direct consequence of not getting the album out? Mike: “No. Some unfortunate series of events and other life's trials led to some of the members having to focus on personal matters. The band was to move to Vancouver, and life brings obstacles”
Rick sees it a bit differently: “I slightly disagree with Mike... I think the failure of “Pieces” to be released took a bit of the wind out of our sails. Sure we were focused and we all moved to Vancouver to help our career, but in that move things happened...I ended up in an unhealthy environment and had to leave, then came back to my senses and returned. Terry ended up leaving and we replaced him with Johnny Prismic from Witches Hammer (R.I.P)...Shit was happening, and we just didn't have the bond or strength to get through it. It's one of those things you think of from time to time and think, what if we had gotten through it?”
In 2008 Brazilian label Marquee Records released “Pieces” as part of a box set named “Piece by Piece – The Anthology.” Did you like this release, and what effect did it have on Armoros? Mike: “I was very honoured that Armando loved the band's music and was very passionate about releasing all our material. I think it is a great package, I am sorry to hear the things did not go well for Marquee.” Rick: “I actually didn't believe it… that’s why I have no liner notes. I truly didn't think it would happen. It had been a long time since anyone seemed that interested in the band so when I heard this guy was putting out our stuff I was thinking ...Ya right!! when it happened I was blown away...I loved the package, loved Armondo's passion for the band...That being said – personally I'm not that crazy about the live stuff on it. I think he could have left that off as it made it a two CD release. It would have kept costs lower and he could have sold it for less. But that’s just my opinion...I'm still very honored and proud that he spent the time, money and effort to release our stuff to the world all these years later.”
Coming out on High Roller Records, “Pieces” will finally be released the way it was meant to be in the first place. The High Roller version of the album will also have the artwork and layout Armoros originally had wanted. Mike and Rick explain what the album will look like, now that it will finally see the light of day in its true form: Mike: “Yes!! I was lucky to keep all the original record layout artwork and master so we had all that to work off. We had always envisioned that our logo on the record would look truly reflective. We are so beyond stoked that High Roller is bringing this to the world!“ Rick echoes everything Mike says: “It is amazing that the original LP is going to be released! So the people who were looking forward to it can get it in its original form!! This is not only a gift to the fans, but a gift to the band as well.”
“Pieces” was overhauled by Patrick W. Engel from Temple of Disharmony. And the band is indeed contented with the outcome. Mike: “I am beyond excited that ‘Pieces’ got remastered by a seasoned veteran!! Sounds crushing!!” Rick: “Sounds amazing...Thanks, Mr. Engel!”
In 1992 Armoros found together for a short-lived reunion. How do you remember that time? Mike: “It was like coming home. Our music again was evolving and we were even more so developing our own personal sound. We were much more accomplished players. Life was different though, as Terry and myself were both now fathers at that time. A lot more life responsibilities..“
Rick: “I remember it being fun and creative, because we had evolved as musicians and were listening to different stuff, like Mr. Bungle and other “alternative” music, as well as Metal. We were opened to broader musical themes. I even had a bit of slap bass in one song. So it was still unmistakably Armoros, but it was slightly more technical maybe. I did feel a musical growth in the band at the time.”
Later, most of the guys in Armoros played in other bands such as Strapping Yound Lad, thus turning their attention to music that was very different from Armoros. Was that a conscious break-up with the past? Mike: “Most of those opportunities were for Jed. I was only involved in SYL's early stages. If I had it my way, Jed and I would have contributed more of our early riff styles to SYL. I have experimented and still do, with various metal/hard rock styles, but I am a thrasher to the bone.“ Rick: “I'll go get a beer for this one!”
Now what are the plans for the future of Armoros? Are there any chances for another reunion? There was some talk about this in 2008, but it never really happened. It would be awesome to see Armoros playing live! Mike: “I think if there was enough of a generated interest, and enough financing... I would love to see Armoros hit the stages of Europe! Another album?! That would be an interesting monster!” Rick: “Mike and I are working on a project right now...nothing serious, but we have talked about how great it would be to do a festival in Europe with's a long shot, but with the right interest, financing, and effort, I don't think it's out of the question...maybe if the album does well...who knows?”
Terry ended his band log book like this: “Our hopes are high but we keep our expectations low, that’s how you survive today.” What hopes Mike and Rick have for “Pieces” and Armoros, now that the album is out? Mike: “I just hope ‘Pieces’ makes it into the homes of all old school headbangers’ album & CD collections. And that it is played often and appreciated!” Rick: “I hope all the thrashers who loved Armoros back in the day get and enjoy the album, and maybe even pass it on to the next generation...I think there are a lot of kids out there that would love our kick ass brand of metal.”
Now before we end this interview: Is there anything left to say about Armoros and “Pieces”? Mike: “All I can say is that it is an honour to be a part of High Roller’s catalogue. Thanks to everyone for bringing this 30 year old plus recording to the masses; the way Armoros always intended! Enjoy fellow thrashers!!!”
Rick: ”I want to thank any and all fans of the band through the years. It's because of them that the band has had such amazes me!! This release would not have been possible without that support, and I am very proud to be part of the High Roller catologue...thanks for bringing out “Pieces” in its original intended form…you've gone above and beyond...THANKS!!”

Ulrike Schmitz

1. Forever Hold Your Pieces / C.M.D.K.
2. Terminal Death
3. Apparition Of Force
4. Remember Michelle
5. The Dead
6. Euphoria
7. Critical Mass
8. Dementia
9. Shadows
10. Earache My Eye


Publisher Info
Format CD
Label High Roller
Released 2015/1988
Box Jewel case
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