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A demonic conspiracy from outer space. - 90%

hells_unicorn, December 3rd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Dissonance Productions

Somewhere along the borders of the fantastical and the tenuously plausible resides the metaphorical world of classic Agent Steel. Both a pioneer of the USPM movement and arguably one of the few adherents of the speed metal scene to take the concept as close to its logical conclusion as possible, they occupied a quirky niche within the mid-80s metal world that one might qualify as an early forerunner to The X Files. At the center of it all was what would be considered the original Agent Mulder, namely eccentric front man and lyricist John Cyriis, who in addition to stretching the boundaries of the human voice in a manner to rival the likes of Midnight and King Diamond, would often delve into the realm of secret government conspiracies, extraterrestrial visitors and other such phenomena often pigeonholed as fringe conspiracy theory. But say what one may about the larger than life persona of Cyriis, the band was at their creative peak when he was at the mic, and while much of the subsequent material put forth with Bruce Hall leading the charge was quite competent, it proved no substitute for the original.

The recent resurrection of the Agent Steel name with Cyriis helming things has been fraught with controversy due to the lack of the other original members' involvement and a sizable level of flux in the replacement lineup. Nevertheless, if the power and intrigue of their recent single "The Devil's Greatest Trick" is any indication, the Agent Steel brand can reclaim its former glory even if rendered into a de facto Cyriis solo project. While taking things to more of a moderate level of speed and intensity that's a bit closer to the sounds often heard on the Order Of The Illuminati album, the vocal work that ensues recalls that assortment of banshee wails and quirky harmonized moments that channel an otherworldly mood. At times the effects placed upon the vocals possess a sort of flanger effect that sees John's musings about interstellar soul-stealing conspiracies and spirit-killing succubae running amok having an almost robotic quality, which actually feeds into the cryptic imagery of a metaphysical nightmare combined with interstellar interlopers and clandestine orders quite effectively.

As an entire package, this is a song that delivers in just about every category that an old school fan of the band would want, save for the involvement of Chuck Profus and the others who now reside under the Masters Of Metal moniker. With a solid, if somewhat simplistic riff assault and a high skilled lead guitar display that closely matches the flashy character heard on Unstoppable Force, the nostalgia factor come with a heavy degree of competency. When combined with Cyriis' somewhat aged yet still highly dynamic hybrid of James Rivera's mid-ranged snarl and the extreme high notes like a choir of alien ghosts howling in unison, what is essentially a 4 minute speed metal banger winds up being about as much of a grower as it is an instant classic. It feels a bit more like a continuation of what the Black Reign demo would have become with a bit more honing and a proper production than a full on retread of mid-80s glory, but it showcases a band that has their act together and will be poised to retake the USPM scene by storm in the coming months when No Other Godz Before Me hits the scene.