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Give back the brand, Cyriis. - 0%

The Jaquio, February 7th, 2022

Agent Steel were a band whose style was firmly rooted in the speed metal category. Their main focus was the vocal acrobatics of their frontman, John Cyriis. Most certainly, while Cyriis' upper range was definitely outstanding, his mid-to-low range was fairly unimpressive at best, and borderline mediocre at worst. Add to that the fact that his wails would sometimes reach this sort of wobbly, bouncy pitch, and as a result you have  a singer that, beyond all the myths, was nothing more than a glorified screamer- a one trick pony. Now, I'm fully aware that being a high-pitched screamer of such caliber ain't no easy feat by any means, but that's precisely why you have to bring your absolute A-game if you're making a comeback after 30+ years of self-imposed exile and make sure you're gonna record an album that's gonna blow everybody's socks off, all the more when some fans have been waiting with bated breath for what seems like an eternity now and won't simply conform with some half-assed collection of tunes.

With that in mind, let me be perfectly blunt here: this to me sounds like complete and utter crap. Cyriis has lost it altogether. I cannot stress enough how awful, absolutely horrible his voice sounds nowadays. It's like a mixture between someone who's been kicked right in the nuts while sucking on a helium tank, and a D-league poor impersonation of King Diamond. The fullness of his upper range has diluted into this thin whimpering; his hollow wails barely hanging by a thread. As for his middle range? I said before it was fairly unimpressive in the 80's; well, it hasn't improved whatsoever 30-some years later. If anything, his attempt at incorporating some menacing grit to his singing only results in a laughable, cartoon villain warble. What happens then when your only trick no longer fools the audience? You're left completely exposed by the glaring flaws of your performance.

Seeing as how the vocals failed miserably to spark any kind of hope, I then tried to find some solace in the music, and the fact is you could almost hear some sort of decency in the instrumental department, yet it all gets blurred to near nothingness because John's vocal melodies aimlessly fly off the handle with no attachment whatsoever to what's being played, all the while thinking his comedic tone alone could very well salvage the overall quality of the material at hand. Well, it can't. Not by a longshot. Plus the music itself ain't that good as to make you forget altogether the colossal disaster that is the "singing".

I think the worst offender here however, is that this guy took hold of the Agent Steel name and hogged it all to himself, snatching it from his former bandmates Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles, both of whom had crafted music of far superior quality in the late 90's-early 00's along with Bruce Hall, a much more competent vocalist than Cyriis. Yes, it's no exaggeration. Some fans just need to stop putting the 80's on this unreachable pedestal, as if anything that's been done afterwards would always pale in comparison no matter what, when in fact both "Omega Conspiracy" and "Order Of The Illuminati" are far more complex, more mature albums, with a much more polished, developed sound than either "Skeptics Apocalypse" or "Unstoppable Force". Yet to see this man come along and claim sole ownership of the name, only to release this pathetically weak attempt at a comeback is a complete and utter travesty. Hell, even the less fortunate "Alienigma" is a much more pallatable effort than this. So, to sum up the title of my review: give back the brand, Cyriis. While you were gone, both Juan and Bernie did a much better job with the Agent Steel name than what you're currently doing with it.

A poor man's interpretation of Kim Bendix Petersen meets Thrash or Die - 25%

kluseba, March 31st, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, Dissonance Productions (Digipak)

American thrash metal quintet Agent Steel is basically a solo project by founding member and vocalist Johny Cyriis from Brazil. All other members have only joined the band in the past two years. Guitarist Nikolay Atanasov hails from Bulgaria. Bassist Shuichi Ono is from Japan. Drummer Rasmus Kjaer comes from Denmark. Vinicius Carvalho who plays in a multitude of other bands is Brazilian like the band leader. We can therefore safely summarize that this is an international project rather than an American band.

There has been quite some drama regarding the band in the past. This is only the sixth full length effort in a career that has lasted for thirty-seven years. The record has been released a whopping fourteen years after its predecessor.

Right from the start, this release doesn't leave the greatest impression. The cover is a solid candidate for worst artwork of the year. It inspires nothing at all. The album title and its spelling is another issue. That might have looked cool if it had come from a rapper in the mid-nineties but feels rather inappropriate from a thrash metal band in this day and age.

What matters though is the music. Most of the songs are based upon a space concept which sounds interesting on paper. However, that reference doesn't have much impact on the music that can be described as a mixture of traditional thrash and speed metal. The songwriting is bland, exchangeable and repetitive. No song manages to stand out and leave a deeper impression. It sounds as if the project were on auto-pilot for nine songs in a row except for the more conceptual overture and closure.

On the positive side, the guitar riffs and solos are quite decent. The riffs are fast, gripping and menacing. The solos are energetic yet melodic and show great skills.

The rhythm section is solid but not outstanding. The drum play is thunderous but at times repetitive. The bass guitar isn't audible enough in the average production.

I'm not too familiar with this band's past records but the vocals are certainly an acquired taste. They sound like a poor man's interpretation of Kim Bendix Petersen to me. They are completely over the top and exaggerated. Especially the high-pitched parts sound unintentionally funny to me. The weird whispers here and there are also quite cringeworthy. The overuse of auto-tune is the final nail in the coffin. A more organic, focused and coherent approach would have sounded much better than the mess we get to hear here.

In many ways, Agent Steel's No Other Godz Before Me makes me think of Thrash or Die's Poser Holocaust, except for the fact that this album deals with cosmic topics while the other band focused on cringeworthy stereotypes. Still, Agent Steel's first effort in fourteen years is best enjoyed for its comedic value. The guitar play is decent and deserves some acclaim. The rest however varies between average and mediocrity regarding the repetitive song writing, the underused rhythm section and especially the dreadful vocals that make this record tough to sit through. My final verdict is that we have a candidate for worst record of the year already. That album is only interesting if you like torturing kittens with its dreadful sound. Everyone else should avoid that coaster or frisbee.

John Cyriis' midlife crisis - 20%

Empyreal, March 29th, 2021

Agent Steel went through a bunch of drama some years back that resulted in the entire band leaving and long-lost singer John Cyriis returning and making a whole other band around him. You know, the kind of name legal drama bullshit that is basically the exact antithesis of rock n’ roll.

So after years of not even being sure this thing would come out, being that Cyriis became known for canceling festival spots and other such shit and changing up plans for the album several times since the early ‘10s, we finally have this fucking thing. I personally was betting on it never coming out. I guess it’s good I never put money down on that.

The other guys are all basically hired guns and playing the most generic speed metal imaginable – it’s competent enough I guess, and you get some good riffs in songs like “Carousel of Vagrant Souls” and “Outer Space Connection,” but there’s nothing here you can’t hear on a bunch of other albums done better with a cooler guitar tone or stronger songwriting. The riffs just sort of chunk along repetitively for a while before the song ends, sometimes being entertaining enough and other times just droll and boring. A few good solos crop up, I guess.

It's just that all the vaguely positive stuff I just said is like the bare minimum of acceptability in metal. I think praising it that highly is like heaping joyous accolades on the plumber for fixing your toilet like he said - it's getting a job done, nothing more or less. I wouldn’t walk away if I heard this band playing (instrumentally) at a festival or whatever but I can’t say there’s any real identity, charisma, spark or joy to speak of yet listening to these guys play – just Store Brand Speed Metal in a colorless box. Which I guess can happen pretty easily when it’s just one dude who hasn’t been in the band in three decades and a bunch of people who weren’t born when this band was doing their early classic work. Go figure!

Cyriis’ vocals… his midrange essentially sounds like that I Think You Should Leave sketch where the guy is choking and refuses help, while the higher range is a bizarre yelping noise that wavers all over like a drunk driver on black ice. There’s effects all over the place here and there aren’t really any good hooks here, and most of the songs are actively without any catchy parts. At best this sounds like a bad Steel Prophet imitation, at worst it’s actively fucking annoying as shit. It’s really kind of absurd to me that anyone heard this and was like ‘yup, OK, sounds good John!’ But maybe it was a yes-man type of situation and nobody was seeing reality.

The whole thing just seems like some sad midlife crisis vanity project. You’re not young anymore. You don’t have to try and recapture your glory days with this shit. It’s minimally competent lowest-common-denominator music and really bad vocals. I can’t see why anyone would pick this over the first few albums because it’s the same stuff just notably worse in every way. Gee, sounds appealing. Oh, and the cover art looks like a frenzied cell phone picture someone took right as a car was about to crash into them. Amazing…

Fun riffz ruined by horrible vocalz - 30%

caspian, March 27th, 2021

Reliztening to Zkepticz Apocalypze (which if we're being honezt iz the only Agent Zteel anyone truly carez about) a fair bit recently, and two thingz come to mind:
1) it iz a really good album, better than I remembered, and it dezervez more recognition bezides the whole AGENTZ OF ZTEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEL bit, cool az that part iz
2) Cyriiz haz a great range but haz a weird, zuper nerdy tone and iz arguably a fairly lackluzter zinger, cool zounding high notez azide.

No Other Godz Before Me is no different, except that the riffs are maybe a bit more worn out and the vocals are really really really bad. A weird, strangled sorta yelp, mangled and smashed through an autotune woodchipper. It's really bad, and it's pretty much everywhere, reminiscent of a squirrel if you grip its' balls really hard.

It's quite a shame because while the guitar work isn't some all time, best thing ever riff fest, it is a lot of fun. Entirely possible I'm just looking in the wrong places but it seems this pretty speedy, polka-beats-all-the-time is rarer than you'd expect, which is kinda odd because it's a reliable formula that pretty much everyone enjoys. Music wise, the general formula hasn't really changed all that much from 35 (!!!) years ago, for the most part things are just a pretty simple picking hand exercise, with the occasional dual lead bit and a little bit of diminished/harmonic minor etc kinda flavour. A few Maiden-isms, and the occasional mid tempo bit that sounds positively modern- but it's rare enough where you don't really mind. There are a few moments where you wish things were maybe 10bpm faster, because it would just give things a bit more energy, and it also means Cyriis would be through his vocals quicker. But sure, instrumentally, it is a fun enough album, if maybe a tad unimaginative.

If the vocals weren't absolutely fucking horrible, who knows how good this album could've been... Or at least, you'd be looking at a very solid 80%er. Unfortunately, every time a fun riff comes on, you have this awful autotuned helium'd up eunuch. Personally, I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to say that the vocals have properly ruined the album. This isn't some prog rock band where's there's no vocals for 15 minutes, this isn't Mustaine-level bad where you can kinda laugh about it and ignore them. Anyway, back to making sure no one's home and attempting the high part in Taken By Force.

Extraterrestrial Intervention Puts an End to the Madnezz - 93%

bayern, March 26th, 2021

Wow, there’s an end to any saga it seems; even the most twisting one… a sigh of relief for sure provided that at some stage it wasn’t certain at all what Cyriis was planning to do… releasing one track every three months… teasing the audience, or leaking the album in a serialized manner ala the crime/mystery novels from the newspapers some 100 years earlier? Because, if was the latter case, if, say, the man has a dozen compositions ready, by releasing one every three months he will have provided the whole album to the fanbase in the span of three years. A blissful projection indeed! Arm yourself with patience, drink only good beer, eat healthy anti-junk food, stay away from the pernicious corona virus epidemic, and boom… in just three years you have the new Agent Steel opus in its entirety. The wait is finally over…

yep, that was a very probable scenario considering Cyriis’ unpredictable persona. Thank god(z) it never came about. I should have been the first to jump this wagon, largely due to the Bulgarian connection (the guitar wizard Nikolay Artanasov) in the new line-up, but I see two other godz before me, one coming straight out of hell for the purpose, that have already poured their emotions. Cause there’s quite a bit to pour, truth be told… the three tracks offered earlier were an awesome teaser, no doubt, but we still had to wait and see if Cyriis would be able to pull it off without Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles shredding odes about tucked-away aliens and far-reaching conspiracies in his ear.

Well, he did pull it off without those two; and not only but this new team seem very well-equipped to finally reach those constellations that Cyriis has been writing about; and let’s all cross fingers Cyriis manages to keep them at close range this time. With another gifted axeman partnering the already mentioned Bulgarian, namely the Brazilian Vinicius Carvalho, the Agent Steel machine takes off with fuel to spare, serving an exemplary no-bars held speed metal attack quite reminiscent of the one from their mythical debut. Yes, this isn’t “Unstoppable Force II”; there are neither atmospheric balladic musings along the lines of “Taveller” nor larger-than-life all-instrumental odysseys akin to “The Day at Guyana”… this is a stripped-down homogenous assault on the senses, a speedy freighter that breezes by, wrapped in a dramatic all-instrumental package (the “Passage/Entrance to Afron-V” intro/outro), this one also underlying the alien, extraterrestrial concept. Text-wise this can totally be expected by Cyriis, his favourite themes propelled by the hyper-active musical delivery which hits the high-speed parametres with “Crypts of Galactic Damnation” and never looks back. Rapidfire riffs, flying solos, screaming crescendos, a couple of more intricate embellishments, the six-stringers shredding like demented and with overtly exhibited enthusiasm, the subversive bass support coming out of the hands of the Japanese vigilante Shuichi Oni, the same one who joined Cyriis for the short-lived Stellar Seed initiative some 20 years earlier.

There’s an end to the madnezz… sorry, madness, mind you, “Veterans of Disaster” being a heavy dark offering recalling Sanctuary’s “Into the Mirror Black”, an effective slower-paced fare that does stand its ground even in the presence of high velocity representations like the galloping pulverizer “Carousel of Vagrant Souls”, this one a great reminder of “Never Surrender” and “Rager” from “Unstoppable Force”. Cyriis assists the lofty musical manoeuvres with his traditionally high-strung tenor, occupying the higher registers for a large portion of the time, to a pretty positive effect, sometimes sounding like a just-unleashed-from-a-bottle genie. But that should be the spirit, the man has been residing in the shadows for way too long, and his eagerness to display his vocal bravado is quite obvious, the latter put under a more levelled mid-ranged control on the mentioned “Veterans of Disaster”. He even sings in Portuguese (“Sonata Cosmica”, “The Incident”) reminding of his roots, firmly walking down the memory lane both music and lyric-wise… a full-on retrospection mayhem he stirs as a result to the listener’s utter delight.

So Agent Steel did return eventually, with flying colours at that. A big sigh of relief from the fans who were never sure as to how exactly this perilously vacillating saga would end. Cyriis simply had no right to make a mistake; there was no room for one… and he didn’t, bringing the sound back to the band’s early days. Quite honestly, there was little wrong with the Garcia and Versailles collaboration with Bruce Hall; in fact, each of the three instalments released with him behind the mike is a fairly decent fare; only that they sound more like a new trajectory started than faithful Agent Steel sequels. No new trajectories here, this is the good old speed metal the way we’ve always liked it, and we don’t really need more, not from this batch anyway…

but Cyriis has to promise that he’ll retain this line-up for future exploits. This musicians’ rotation has to stop… cause only a united monolithic force is the one that can’t be stopped. And, how do you plan to reach these galaxies far far away with a perennially-shifting crew? How do you expect to steer the ship in the right direction… not to mention the always lurking possibility of disappointing these godz over there…. who recognize no whimsicality and flippancy… but only stolid unwavering loyalty.

The conspiracy has been reborn. - 90%

hells_unicorn, March 26th, 2021
Written based on this version: 2021, CD, Dissonance Productions (Digipak)

Call it nostalgia, but there was something truly unique and compelling about the original run of The X-Files. The time was ripe for a needed dose of skepticism to be injected into the public’s consciousness regarding government and established institutions, combined with a more expansive dialogue on the topic of metaphysics. But as with all successful ventures, there are always forerunners that blaze a path a bit earlier on, for as the old adage goes, there is nothing new under the sun. One such predecessor to the aforementioned television show and cultural phenomenon was the short-lived 80s speed metal outfit Agent Steel, a band that delved deep into the realm of hidden conspiracies with a blatant extraterrestrial theme and set it to a metallic template that was highly unique for its day, albeit comparable to the slightly earlier exploits of Helstar, Omen and Jag Panzer. Theirs was definitely a road less travelled on both the musical and lyrical fronts, so much so that even the band’s sudden 1988 disintegration has often been the subject of conspiratorial speculation.

If the project itself could be likened to the aforementioned TV show, then its enigmatic front man John Cyriis would be the equivalent of its principle character Agent Mulder, to the point where it becomes a question of whether or not Agent Steel could be seen as such with him being absent. Nevertheless, the power metal revival of the late 1990s saw most of the instrumentalist lineup that crafted their 1987 swansong Unstoppable Force reform the group without him, and the results began as something akin to an effective spin-off of the original along the lines of Millennium or The Lone Gunman. A similar atmosphere was struck by most of the original cast being involved, and replacement vocalist Bruce Hall did a capable job at bringing the whole thing together, resulting in two new classics in Omega Conspiracy and Order Of The Illuminati, along with a stylistic pivot turned dud in 2007’s Alienigma just prior to the latter day continuation folding tent and Cyriis regaining control of the Agent Steel name in 2011, resulting in yet another spin-off dubbed Masters Of Metal that would see a respectable continuation of the Omega Conspiracy sound into the mid-2010s.

Now with a completely new lineup in tow, Cyriis has unleashed his first fully produced product from his well of unconventional ideas in over 30 years in 2021’s No Other Godz Before Me, and the results can be best explained as a small yet noticeable expansion upon Agent Steel’s past and some of the short-lived projects that occupied Cyriis’ time immediately afterward. It’s of a far more concentrated speed/thrashing character that makes it a bit more kinetic and frenetic than the nuanced, almost Queensryche-infused character of Unstoppable Force, yet it comes off as a bit more restrained and controlled when put against the wild speed metal frenzies that dominated both Skeptics Apocalypse and the Mad Locust Rising EP. The songwriting structure is definitely of a simple nature, often focusing upon streamlined riff work and a tightly focused rhythmic backdrop to allow the vocal work to be the center of attention and engage in the sort of inhuman acrobatics that one might expect from the likes of King Diamond, Midnight or Geoff Tate back during the high period of 80s excess.

For their part, the instrumentalists adapt their respective chops to the 80s speed metal template effectively, while guitarists Nikolay Atanasov and Vinicius Carvalho showcase a degree of technical intrigue in the soloing department that’s a bit fancier than the prior ones showcased by Garcia, Versailles or Kilfelt. It’s not quite to the point of rivaling the outlandish shredding sessions that one might hear out of Joe Stump or Yngwie Malmsteen, but apart from some obvious melodic hooks inspired by Iron Maiden littered here and there, the degree of technical proficiency on display here surpasses a typical 80s USPM performance. Be this as it may, Cyriis himself has delivered up a performance that’s of an even more exaggerated character, often steeped in effects and embodying the alien-like character of the lyrical content. It bears some level of similarity to his more Geoff Tate-inspired performance on Unstoppable Force, but the quirky harmonized segments and flanger-steeped passages put things in a notably more interstellar light. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but it definitely feeds into the character of the album’s theme of sinister manipulators behind the scenes quite effectively.

True to form, this album begins and end things on a decidedly cryptic note with a pair of ambiguous instrumental works with odd spoken passages dubbed “Passage To Afron-V” and “Entrance To Afron-V” respectively, yet also a solid and simple melodic hook that serves to orient things for the upcoming barrage and then close things on a familiar note. In between this, however, is a collection of guitar happy, high speed goodness that has scarcely been heard on the western side of the Atlantic since the close of the 80s. The songs are generally differentiated by varying degrees of intensity and speed, with the heavy thrashing cruisers “Crypts Of Galactic Damnation” and “The Incident” being of a chunkier and slightly less frenetic character, while the light speed romps after the heart of Skeptics Apocalypse in “Outer Space Connection” and the riveting title anthem “No Other Godz Before Me” cut across the skyline so quickly that the unsuspecting eye might miss them. On the other hand, “The Devil’s Greatest Trick” functions as more of a vocal showcase with a streamlined speed metal character, ditto the somewhat swifter yet heavy-ended “Sonata Cosmica”.

Naturally due to the contention surrounding the dissolution of the Bruce Hall era of this band and Cyriis opting to act without the input of his old band mates, this is an album that has arrived to a degree of skepticism among Agent Steel’s fan base that is of a slightly less extreme character to the one that dogged Queensryche after Geoff Tate left the fold. But the question of whether the current Agent Steel or the Masters Of Metal spinoff that has been sitting in limbo for the past few years is the true continuation of the original is an ancillary concern when coupled with the brilliant display that occurs within the bounds of No Other Godz Before Me, musically speaking. Those looking for a well produced barrage of classic speed metal that holds true to the 80s ideal of more is more will not be disappointed, and while the highly flamboyant character of Cyriis’ vocal performance is a bit atypical compared to the one he embodied back in the day, the mixture of James Rivera-inspired grit and haunting high-pitched ravings has a charm to it that becomes more apparent after repeated hearings. This is metal straight from the dimensional wormhole hiding in the Bermuda Triangle, so expect the unexpected, and expect to be inspired to look past the pretense of things and dig a bit deeper, because the truth is out there.

Originally written for Sonic Perspectives (www.sonicperspectives.com)

The Godz use too much autotune - 69%

kroagnon, March 21st, 2021

Agent Steel has a rather dramatic history, as metal bands go. They began with two stellar (no pun intended) albums in the 80s, true classics of speed metal anchored by the guitar of Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles and the vocals of screamer John Cyriis. Unfortunately, the notoriously strange Cyriis moved the band to Florida, and the rest of them didn't follow him. This marked a thoroughly ignominious end to Agent Steel for a decade or more, until Garcia and Versailles reformed the band without Cyriis, and released more stellar albums. Then, around 2008, they reunited with Cyriis for a few shows. The future looked bright for Agent Steel, until Cyriis inexplicably broke off contact with the other band members, who continued on with a few stand-in vocalists until folding, supposedly out of some naming dispute with Cyriis, who held the rights to the band name. Garcia and Versailles released one more album under the Masters of Metal name, before dropping off the map as well. This, it seemed, was the rather depressing end of Agent Steel. Not with a bang, as they say, but a whimper.

However, in 2018, to the shock of basically everyone John Cyriis announced a reunited Agent Steel. This was a cause for celebration until looking a little closer. Garcia and Versailles were absent, replaced by various unknowns, who were then replaced by other unknowns, and so on, until Agent Steel was looking less like a band and more like a revolving door around John Cyriis. The band's thoroughly awful live performances did not help matters. A new album was teased, which went through various titles, lineups, record labels, and deadlines. The depressingly logical conclusion from all this was that this new Agent Steel was nothing more than the substance-less dream of a washed-up flake and some hired hands. I resigned myself to that, then was immensely surprised to hear that this thing had actually come out.

Logically, this should have been utterly terrible. The revolving door of band members that went into it, the years spent in development hell, the shameless callback title, etc. The actual result, to my surprise, was a good deal more complicated.

From the intro track into the first proper track on the album, "Crypts of Galactic Damnation", I was stunned to find, well, good riffs. They were even well-produced and played well. This actually sounded a bit like Skeptics Apocalypse. That is the greatest surprise of this album: how musically solid it is. Against all odds, this new Agent Steel has actually managed a decent channeling of the speed metal fury of old. The riffs are good and fast, and there's a whole lot of double bass on the drums. It does start to bleed into each other a little bit after the first few tracks, but even the classic albums are like that. Were this an instrumental album, I would call it quite good, and at the start of that first track, No Other Godz Before Me was sounding like the surprise of the year.. Then the vocals came in.

The vocals. There's no beating around the bush here: John Cyriis sounds bad on this album. Really bad. If I had to make a comparison, I would say David DeFeis after 2010, which is one hell of an offensive thing to compare anything to. Much like DeFeis, Cyriis still has a strong mid range, but has lost his high range and seems to be in a state of utter denial about it. They could stand to take a cue from Rob Halford, who has wisely realized his mid-range still sounds good and uses it much more than the highs. Not so here. Instead, Cyriis spends a deeply worrying amount of time in what's left of his high range, sounding like an octogenarian with severe intestinal problems and too much autotune. Listening to this and Skeptics Apocalypse next to each other is rather depressing. Both are clearly Cyriis, and he was always a somewhat idiosyncratic singer, but, well, he sounds good on the old stuff, and here he sounds like he's about to pop a blood vessel from his hideous screeching. The opening of the title track is just downright depressing. He actually sounds good when he's singing a little lower, and even on a lot of the high screams, but on the frequent occasion where he stays as high as he can possibly go for an extended period, it's just depressing. What's perhaps more depressing is that lyrically speaking this is actually pretty good in its own way, with the same strange UFO conspiracy theorist stuff that powered the band's 1980s albums. But the best lyrics in the world wouldn't save this delivery. Who on earth listened to those parts and thought "Yep, that sounds fine?"

Reviewing an album is a difficult thing. Most albums are deeply subjective, then I have to say a bunch of stuff about how I personally found it to be and then give it a subjective rating. The rating is still subjective, but one thing about this album (the vocals) is more objectively bad than nearly any facet of any album I've ever seen. That sheer objective badness forces me to rate this fairly enjoyable album much lower than I would otherwise. It's basically on the same level as if the drummer was just completely out of time for half the album to an egregious extent. I cannot in good faith call an album with such an enormous glaring flaw in its performance truly good. I can call it good but thoroughly flawed, which I will, but that's as far as it goes.

So, if you haven't guessed, this album is a thoroughly mixed bag. As much as I bash the vocals, there are a few tracks on here that play more to Cyriis' present strengths ("Veterans of Disaster" and "The Incident") and are actually quite good. And if you're the sort who listens mainly for the riffs, you'll find a lot of good 80s-sounding stuff in here. This album is by no means a lost cause. I may not be able to call it particularly good, but it's at least quite an enjoyable slice of speed metal when not being butchered by the screeching. It's rare that I see an album that's so good in one area, and so obviously and preventably bad in another. To my continued surprise, the bones of an album to rival Skeptics Apocalypse or Unstoppable Force really are here: John Cyriis just has to look (and sing) a bit deeper to fully uncover it.