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Agent Steel is typically the one band that many metal fans can agree with in being pure and true speed metal, nothing else. Diving deeper into the pits of metal it becomes quite clear they are far from being alone in this controversial genre of all things, but these guys were hands down one of the finest. With themes and lyrics totally out of the ordinary for its time this alien force was one not be messed with.
I've been an Agent Steel fan for several years now and I still don't think I can honestly decide which album I prefer more (from the Cyriis era). This, or Unstoppable Force. Both are incredibly different but still absolutely nothing but "Agent Steel", there's hardly anything you can truly compare both these albums too. The apparent issue and argument over this album is that it was simplistic and too straightforward. Riffs and rhythm's seem to get repeated from time to time, but no matter how many times I see an Agent Steel discussion spark up it seems like everyone and their best buds come up with more classic picks from this album than anything else they have ever done. From Agents of Steel, to Bleed for the Godz, to Children of the Son and so forth, this album is practically made up of nothing but insanely memorable tracks. I don't think anyone can deny this fact.
As its been stated all throughout the world, Cyriis is a vocalist in a realm of his own. Admittedly he hasn't perfected his craft on this release just yet, with a few raspy slip ups here and there (144,000 Gone has some odd vocals, etc), his performance still delivers beyond word and even far surpasses many of the finest vocalists out there. None can dish out such overpowering and clear choruses as Cyriis does on this album. If you somehow don't know the man but are a fan of the wailing and shriekiest vocalists in the business, you have no idea what you've been missing out on. He's a "clear" shrieker, one that'll make your jaw drop with his over the top vocals rather than pierce your ears, so his pitch isn't painfully high. Its probably worth mentioning he sounds just as good live as he does out of the studio also. Like everyone always begs to question, maybe he's an alien himself!
The material here is extremely consistent with no slow songs in sight. The production has aged but I can't find a way to pick it apart or anything, there's no other way I'd prefer it. Drums are fast and always in the clear, the guitars are constantly shredding things into pieces and even the bass seems to come out of nowhere every once and awhile and impresses with its insane speed. Speed was the main driving force behind Agent Steel at the time and its easy to say they are even faster than some of the earlier thrash acts from the mid-80's. Its mainly about the catchy nonstop rhythm's over melodic leads and so forth, which they would later go on to focus and develop upon with Unstoppable Force. Here they just wanted to get straight to the point, to blow your face off.
I'm not going to go over every track as I have already stressed the consistency but there are a few that stand out more than others. The opener Agents of Steel is undeniably one of their greatest tracks and if you're new to this kind of stuff it will probably destroy you. This song sets you up perfectly for what to expect with the rest of the album, ludacris speeds that are hardly matched (even today) with some downright crazy vocals. The next track Taken By Force is pretty much a stamp that states "Cyriis". His creative vocals that switch from side to side and overlayer each other completely control this one. Bleed for the Godz is by far one of my all time Agent Steel favorites. This one is more drawn out than most of the songs here and Cyriis gives off one of his most aggressive performances on it, with a chorus you will never forget. After this one Guilty as Charged is probably my next favorite pick, its got that classic intro screaming that defines metal and everything gets about 10x heavier when Cyriis unleashes that insane "Chaaaaaaaaarged" scream. Again its another completely unforgettable number. The only worthless tracks here are the two instrumentals at the beginning and the end of the album (comes with the reissue), a little more work probably could have given off that extraterrestrial vibe they were going for but it just doesn't really turn out too well. The Unexpected (Live) is the second bonus track you get with the reissue and I really would have loved to have seen this one on the album. The sound quality is utterly dense and drowned out, but its still listenable and you can tell its awesome. It has probably the best dual harmonies this album could have offered and finally, its proof that Cyriis was awesome live.
If you're new to this kind of stuff you may have to give this one some time to sink in. If not chances are you've probably already heard this album. From the beginning and to the end this is one ultimate headbanger with consistency that never lets up, packed with some of the greatest vocals in metal history. Thanks to the reissue its not impossible to find. So get it and know your Godz while preparing yourself for Unstoppable Force! Two timeless classics.
“…as the bleak of dusk ordains the eve…”
Just do what you have to do…click over/drop the needle/fast-forward…(to get) past the eternally useless intro and into “Agents of Steel”, not because the opening is that terrible, but because why waste precious time when instead you could be enveloped by a purebred example of speed/thrash metal. People have described speed metal as everything from Judas Priest to Motorhead to Artillery to Slayer to Running Wild to the latest band that’s playing something fast, but only the last three bands can claim any moments in the its sun. Agent Steel, one in the explosion of bands coming out of CA, bask in it, asses planted on lawn chairs with cold ones in hand. Actually, guitarists Juan Garcia and Kurt Colfelt were probably getting palm cramps from breaking land-speed records in a three-inch arc. In truth, every facet of this debut isn’t pinned with the speed badge, but Skeptics Apocalypse is one of the few that can actively be called a speed album without me resting my head in despair. Without any alarms blaring, it can just as easily be called a thrash album as well; two styles that are close like cousins sharing the same bedroom. One just has more of a hair trigger and will make it to the door first when the dinner bell rings.
“The Calling” doesn’t introduce the album per say, but moreover ham handedly acquaints the listener with John Cyriis’s fascination with space, science fiction, alien communication and other stuff really no other thrash band was touching. Original? Yeah, sure, why not? Does it take away from the album? Nah. The music’s much too powerful to be overcome by a mere undertone. Aggressive percussion and a lone guitar lick kicks “Agents of Steel” loose from the intro’s boring, radio-controlled narration, and as soon as the second guitar roars to life, the album’s concealed spirit awakens. Thrash strokes solidify into a temporal form. Within seconds it lives and breathes with the intensity of a newly oiled combine. John Cyriis, already a former member of Abattoir, possesses one of those voices you don’t need cutting loose in the pickle jar section of the supermarket and with one note transforms a fairly ordinary chorus into one not quickly forgotten. “Taken by Force”, originally recorded for Metal Massacre IV under the band moniker Scepter, showcases a more obscure speed metal trait that helps define the style. The drums amble along with a more methodical and subtle pace, yet you should notice that despite this, the riffing underscore is still played with a frantic verve, noticeable more in the unforgettable, keened backing vocal chorus that is the song’s centerpiece. With thousands of bands in a half dozen styles playing with a velocity that is the grim reaper for drum kits, it’s only natural that speed metal center around guitars. There’s no arcane mystery behind “Evil Eye/Evil Minds” and “Bleed for the Godz”, two tracks whose combined obsessive power and speed-wracked intensity can reduce a mountain range into a transparent wisp of smoke and aren’t to be missed.
Side two’s “Children of the Sun” is more provisional with its structuring, plowing a few rhythmic fields as well as tending a slightly more ambitious songwriting crop, and there’re these off-kilter notes Cyriis hits like someone is tweaking his taint with a stick, the verse “…a hole in the SKY and a tear in the eye of the god of the GATE of the sun…” to be more precise, but the chorus saves some face. The uncharacteristic “144,000 Gone” starts with an ancy, semi-rhythm technique that transforms into a coinciding, full-on riff Maiden likes to use to some extent on their first three lps with tandem soloing not at all out of place. There’s no denying the dawning riff of “Guilty as Charged” is revving up for something, and low and behold is met with one of those quintessential heavy/power metal screams that starts from the bottom of Cyriis’s feet and sails off into the stratosphere, meanwhile “Back To Reign”, like “”Taken By Force”, simmers on a slow burn but is still jeopardous with quick, flammable guitar work, and when Kurt Colfelt and Holy Terror retitled it “Debt of Pain”, revamped its lyrics, and gave it a momentum akin to the wind velocity on Jupiter, it became a true adrenal barbarian.
The bands following ep, Mad Locust Rising, continues the otherworldly and contemporary themes and is probably one of the only metal releases with locust in the title, especially an angry one. As for SA, you’ll find few releases that not only pinpoint the scarce speed metal style, but to fuel nearly an entire album with.
Fun Fact: In 1985, readers of Metal Forces voted Cyriis one of the best vocalists of that year, toppled only by Joey Belladonna, Tom Araya, and Ronnie James Dio. Bringing up his rear were Geoff Tate, Eric Adams, and Bruce Dickinson.
It's 1985. Five aliens from outer space land in L.A. and decide to make a heavy metal band. They grow some hair, buy some guitars and they name themselves Agent Steel. Out to the studio they go and they make one of the greatest speed metal records to date. They name it Skeptics Apocalypse.
Seriously, this is the debut record from the alienish (god, I love to invent new words) Agent Steel. The first thing you notice here is definitely the total speed attack which kicks you in the nuts right in the first song (excluding the little intro). The basics of Agent Steel are in the true US heavy/power metal in the vein of, let's say Metal Church - they just make it 100 times faster. The production isn't bad for '85.
The first thing you'll notice on Skepticz will probably be the vocal performance of the mad screamer, Cyriis. I think the whole alien idea was also his. He's also known to be very mysterious and a bit erratic. Well nevertheless, he's a great singer. His screams are out of this world and his voice tone fits perfectly into the music of Agent Steel. The guitarist do a good job here. The riffs are catchy, fast and quite varied and the solos are as melodic as they should be. There are also some very good leads to be found here. Bass isn't that audible and drums are just standard speed metal drums, you won't find anything new here.
The album is well balanced, but the best songs are still concentrated in the first half of it. After the intro, The Calling, Agents Of Steel kicks in. A fan favourite and a live staple has everything you would expect from a speed metal anthem. It's fast, catchy and really fun to sing along (especially in the chorus). It goes the same for Evil Eye / Evil Minds. Bleed For The Godz is probably the best song on the record. It starts off with some crazy riffage and then continues into a full out speed attack. The chorus of this song is one of the best things ever made in power/speed metal. 144,000 Gone has a slightly more epic feel to it and it's just a little slower than the previous songs. It's still one of the highlights on here.
So, let's see. Blazing speed - check. Mad riffage - check. Sing along choruses - check. Slightly insane frontman - check. Interesting lyrics - check. Yep, it's definitely speed metal. And yeah, it's Agent Steel. Recommended!