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Well, well now, I think I just might owe Agent Steel something of an apology. I wrote a middling, overly critical review for this album a few months back, but upon a recent re-listening, I've undergone a complete 180 flip in opinion - I'm going to come out in the open and admit that I was fully wrong about this disc. Alienigma is surely different from the old Agent Steel, and old Agent Steel is surely good in its own right, but we can't hold onto those classic albums forever. Especially not when you consider the crushing magnitude of this new release, and the soaring heights to which this band has taken their instrumental and songwriting powers. So this is my mea culpa, and I have to say that Alienigma fucking smokes; no way around it.
Moving onto the music, the band has upped the heaviness a considerable amount since their last effort Order of the Illuminati, and they've also tightened up their sound and produced a full album with no fillers or weak cuts like the last album had. The guitar tone is thicker and fuller, the bass is sizzling and red-hot and the drum sound is pulverizing in its vigorous display of skull crushing goodness. Bruce Hall's vocals are not quite as smooth and sleek as they were on Order, and I don't think the vocal lines he sings are always the best, but he sounds angrier and tougher here than ever, and it fits like a glove with the new direction the music has taken. You will hear calls of "sellout" and "Nevermore clone," but those people have not given this album enough of a chance, because this is a hundred times better and more powerful than anything that lame band has ever produced. The production may be modernized, but don't make the same mistake I did and dismiss Agent Steel for that.
Thrash metal? Not exactly, although it's obvious that is definitely one of the prime influences at work on Alienigma. While still obviously drawing from the well of Thrash, what with the chugging, dynamic, go-for-the-throat riffwork, Agent Steel have also implemented a hugely prominent 80s classic metal influence that simply can't be denied. I hear deep, defined shades of Helstar's Remnants of War intertwining furiously with the undeniable majesty of Liege Lord's Master Control, with just a few hints of Judas Priest making themselves known, all wrapped up in the crystal-clear-yet-still-fucking-mountainous production job that I really hope the band sticks with from this point forward. The riffs are more plentiful and better than ever, and the solos are pure classic metal bliss, and no connoisseur of traditional Heavy Metal can deny that fact. Agent Steel in the past were always a good band, but never before did they ever meld their influences into such a well done piece of music, and never before did they kick quite this much ass.
As for standout cuts, every song delivers a heaping helping of pure American steel, from the bone-rattling mastery of the opener "Fashioned from Dust" to the full-throttle assault of the following anthem "Wash the Planet Clean," with it's monstrous shoutalong chorus, to the double-whammy assault on the senses of "Wormwod" and the awesome "Liberty Lying Bleeding," and to the aural assault of any number of metallic crackers on display here. The band never misses a step here, always on top of their game and always going straight for the jugular, tearing in with such ferocious enthusiasm that even the most jaded metalhead will be forced to admit to the raw, unrelenting power Agent Steel have now, in the face of the behemoth that is Alienigma. This is mandatory.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com