Saturday, November 10, 2012

Prism - Armageddon



Prism is something of a troubled band. Prism has had twenty members and the current lineup does not have even one of Prism’s original five. How does that even happen? Why even call yourselves Prism at this point? The band formed in 1977, I am not even sure if the current line up was alive when they first formed. So when I tell you Prism was something of a troubled band I think you can see why.

Prism existence is divided into two active runs, the initial formation and run of the band with a somewhat consistent lineup consisting mostly of original members from 1977 to 1984 and a second and somewhat confusing run from 1988 to present. It should come as no surprise that all of Prism’s best work was created during that first run, most notable in 1979 with the release of their third and perhaps most popular/famous album “Armageddon.”

The album Armageddon remains a topic of interest for a variety of reasons. Armageddon’s producer Bruce Fairbairn won producer of the year in 1979 at the Junos. Bryan Adams assisted in the song writing for two of the tracks on Armageddon, “You Walked Away” and “Take it or Leave It.” I do not know for certain but as far as I can tell this was Bryan Adams’ first professional song writing gig, so I guess we have Prism to blame for Bryan Adams. Most note worthy, as far as I am concerned, is the title track “Armageddon” which has to be the most fun song about the end of world ever.

In the long standing history about singing about terrible things in the most upbeat way imaginable, Prism accomplishes the perfect mood for cheerful party music while singing about total war and the end of the world. There are other happy songs about the end of the world, but most of them are a mixed message. The typical format you see about happy Armageddon songs is partying in spite of the end approaching, like Prince’s “1999” or REM’s “I’m going DJ.” Prism’s “Armageddon” does not invoke partying or happiness in its lyrics, no, it accomplishes that through mood alone. The best comparison I can think of is Nena’s “99 Luft Balloons” but Prism’s “Armageddon” rocks out, so it is the better song.

All bemusement about the happy end times aside, “Armageddon” still holds up as a great song. In fact the eccentric use of seemingly out of place lyrics in what is an otherwise positive energy song is one of the least notable aspects of attributes of “Armageddon’s” quality. The mood is great in “Armageddon” there is a lot of positive feeling coming out of the melody and expression, and while I like to consider Prism a pure rock band and “Armageddon” a pure rock song I would be wrong to deny the pop elementals of dance like joy that exist in this song.

The best part of “Armageddon” is the opening and closing instrumental. Following the classic canon method “Armageddon” opens with the drums playing rhythm and is accompanied by what I believe to be a slow slide from the bass playing the accompaniment. Then the melody hits, with what sounds like violin but I am pretty sure it is a keyboard, and it is beautiful. Then most subtle of all is the harmony on guitar, and once the guitar hits the melody begins to flux in the most perfect way. There is something so pleasing about the canon method, it always gives you time to absorb all the sound being given to you and your mind has an easy time falling into the pattern of the song. There is a reason why this is like the sixth time I've mentioned the canon method, it is simple and highly effective. To bring the song back to continuity, the song ends with the same introductive pattern it opened with, drums and bass as rhythm and accompaniment, keyboard on melody, and guitar on harmony. It is the best part of this nearly eight minute song.

“Armageddon” does not feel like a seven minute forty-six second song. It flows so swimmingly, and so pleasantly that time just seems to fly by. That’s the sign of a really relaxing song, which makes it all the more charming that it is about the war and the end times.

“Armageddon, carry me home.” Is home heaven and since we are all going to die we are going home to heaven? Or is war humankinds’ natural way, so fighting in Armageddon is in a sense returning home to where we belong? Is there some kind of spiritual message here or a cleaver gag? I do not know, and I don’t care, it is a silly song, it could even be a stupid song, but that does not change the fact it is a great song and one of the best songs ever recorded about the end of the world.

- Colin Kelly

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