Armoros from Victoria, British Columbia, formed in 1985, and they recorded their stunning debut in 1988. Add some bad luck to the story and you know why it took this thrash masterpiece almost thirty years to finally be released the way it was meant to in the first place. “Pieces” came out via High Roller Records in 2015 and it definitely has made some waves in the wider thrash scene. Now Armoros are presening their fans with another release, a double LP compilation bearing the enticing title “Apparitions - an Ode to Thrash”.
Rick Lee, who handles both vocals and bass in Armoros, tells us what we can expect from this new release. It has all the demo songs, that’s for sure, but are there not also some previously unreleased tracks on it, like e.g. “Headsman”? Rick: ”Well, the compilation has all the songs from all our demos and yes, a rehearsal version of ‘Dementia’ which was originally called ‘The Headsman’. After our former vocalist Kevin Wright left we didn’t have the lyrics for it so I rewrote it as ‘Dementia’, but for some reason I didn’t want to sing it, so Jed took that one.”
Where and when were the songs recorded that are now brought together on this release? Of course, Rick still remembers this, and all the details, too: “’Debut Assault’ was recorded at a college in Victoria as a project for a friend’s communications course. ‘Ressurecdead’ was recorded at Roan Sound Recording studio (I think we paid $200 for it). ‘Remember Michelle’ was actually recorded twice... the first time was at some guy’s home recording studio and we all hated it!!... So we redid it at Downtown Sound if I remember correctly… The ‘92 Demo was recorded at Degrasee Studio but was never finished for various reasons. Hence it has no guitar solos and isn’t mixed or mastered...really raw material.”
For sure each single demo must have meant an important step for the band. The second and third demo brought Armoros some decent attention around the world, including reviews in Kerrang! and Metal Forces, right? “Well, ‘Debut’ was an important recording for a few reasons… I joined the band during that session and Jed had left to work in the Alberta oil fields but came back near the end so it helped form what would become the later version of the band. Also, it gave us a start to building a following in our home town by selling a few copies in our local music store.
‘Ressurecdead’ was kinda the first recording of what would become ARMOROS. We went through a really uncertain time after Kevin left, and that demo was the result of us coming through the other side. We were resurrected. It is also the one we got a great review in Metal Forces for and it put us out there internationally.
‘Remember Michelle’ I think really solidified us as a band. We were all living together at the time and had the same vision. And it also got good reviews in Metal Forces and Kerrang! The ‘’92’ demo was a double-edged sword. We had split up for a couple years and we attempted to get back together, and you can really hear the musical growth we had all gone through. And although I’m proud of it some would argue it’s not a PURE Armoros recording… but I guess fans can decide for themselves.”
In our last conversation, Rick mentioned that some of his friends were knee-deep into tape trading back then. How did this help to get Armoros’ music out into the world? And does he think there are still some original copies around? “Having friends who were into tape trading showed us that ‘Hey, if these bands can do it... so can we!’ I sent 10 copies out to random people from the back of Metal Forces for free just to see what the response would be, and it developed from there. We had a pretty extensive mailing list at one point… and yes, I’m pretty sure at least a few of our friends still have original copies around.”
Last time Rick also mentioned that the local scene in Victoria was very small, and that people were at best listening to bands like the Scorpions. So, how did the band’s local and personal environment actually react to the demos? Were Armoros heard at all, did they get a chance to play live, or were they rather treated like a group of thrash metal outcasts?
Rick on that: “The first demo kinda kicked it off. We sold a few copies locally and people seemed to like it despite the questionable quality. This in turn attracted some people to our first shows. I don’t think a lot of the other bands liked us too much early on, but the scene grew after a while and there were more bands like us popping up. Eventually there was a great scene happening. There was a local magazine that did an extensive article on us back then, and they called us ‘The grandfathers of Victoria Metal’… never dawned on me before...but I guess they were kinda right.”
Now let’s get back into the present, back to the new release. Does the title “Apparitions – an Ode to Thrash” allude to the song title “Apparition of Force” which first appeared on the “Remember Michelle” demo? “Yes, it does. When High Roller was asking what we might want to call it, it occurred to me that these songs are like ‘GHOSTS’ from the past. That triggered the word apparitions, which had been part of one of our songs. It didn’t fly right away… and after ‘Ode to Thrash’ was submitted, I resubmitted my idea, and everyone liked the idea of adding them together.”
In how far does “Apparitions – an Ode to Thrash” differ from the compilation that came out in 2008 on the Brazilian label Marquee Records (“Piece by Piece – the Anthology”)? Rick explains: “Well, it’s been completely re-mastered and it is a 2 LP vinyl gate fold with great cover art. It’s really an attempt to give fans a comprehensive package – just get the music out there in a fun old school way. This will be a collector for any fan of the band.” Sure he’s right there.
As Rick just mentioned before, all the songs were remastered by Patrick W. Engel at Temple of Disharmony. What was working with him like? How much has actually been changed about the old recordings? “Patrick did another amazing job. It’s cleaner, it’s brighter... he really pulled everything out of those old recordings he could... he’s a Metal God.” He surely loves to hear that.
The compilation also comes with an amazing, grim and dark cover artwork – who contributed it? “Our guitarist Mike Sudar used to do all our artwork. He sent some stuff to the High Rollers graphic department and Alexander von Wielding did an amazing cover for it. He also redesigned our symbol (it’s on the back). He also did a great job on the layout.”
If we now take a look at the more recent past: What has changed for Armoros since the debut ‘Pieces’ was finally released properly in 2015? Did they finally get a bit of the recognition they deserve? “You know, I’m still amazed at the longevity the music has. We are the band that just won’t die! We get likes constantly on our Facebook page, people are still discovering us, and that’s pretty amazing.” That truly is amazing. Do Armoros also receive any offers to play live? Have they maybe actually thought about reforming the band? Rick gives a somewhat hopeful answer to this one: “Someone mentioned that on Facebook the other day. It’s not in the realm of impossibility but it would take a lot of things to align… Mike and I still play a couple of those songs from time to time… Jed is across the country and busy... but I think if we were to get an offer that is worthwhile... maybe some European festivals or something… could see an avenue to make that happen... but it’s a long shot.” So, let’s just hope that all the right people get to read this answer.
Now what is left to say about “Apparitions – an Ode to Thrash”? Rick: “Just a BIG thank you to all who have supported the band all these years... and a BIG thank you to HIGH ROLLER for believing in our music enough to invest in us… If you haven’t already, order ‘PIECES’, order ‘APPARITIONS – an Ode to Thrash’, and Keep Thrashing!”