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No aliens in sight - 62%

Felix 1666, June 15th, 2017

Agent Steel's racy debut was, is and will always be an early masterpiece at the interface of speed and thrash metal. Moreover, it sounded like the promise for a golden future. John Cyriis was slightly mad, but a great singer and the band had a fantastic understanding of musicality. Then came "Unstoppable Force" and the album revealed, slowly but surely, a new compositional direction of the formation. While travelling through endless galaxies in order to find unknown forms of life, the guys had expanded their musical horizon. The new broadened approach of the gang did not match my narrow-mindedness and therefore I cannot say that "Unstoppable Force" belongs to the essential albums of the eighties. However, Agent Steel had written a few killer tracks as well.

Abrasive guitars kick off the mid-paced neckbreaker "Indestructive". The tight verses embrace the listener with their iron grip and the dynamic up-tempo chorus works like an opened valve that allows the energy to flow freely. The title track relies on a more or less similar configuration, but its average speed is higher. This first number of the album seems to look for a place near to the songs of "Skeptics Apocalypse". It harkens back to the generally vehement approach of the debut, but it delivers only one facet of the "new" Agent Steel. On the other hand, one finds overly melodic and yes, really soft tunes at the end of both sides of the vinyl. Back in the eighties, two ballads on one speed metal album appeared to me like a serious violation of the genre rules, especially when considering the fact that "Still Searchin'" is nothing but an oily piece of kitsch, unbeatable in its harmlessness. Cyriis delivers siren-like, acceptable vocals and the rest of the band does not seem to exist anymore. Okay, the solo proves the opposite, but it is one of these let-the-guitar-do-the-talking masturbations that did not find a cuddly place in the repertoire of the guitarists of Testament. In a nutshell, a gruesome piece of music. "The Traveler" is better, because it does not deliver another portion of schmaltz, but this does not mean that it is truly well invested time to listen to it.

The few powerful tracks ("The Rager" bares its teeth) need species protection, because an overlong instrumental, a semi-ballad like "Chosen to Stay" (not bad, but its calm intro is too long) and the aforementioned throwaway tracks "Still Searchin'" endanger their refuge. More or less the same goes for the pretty traditional "Nothin' Left". It sounds like a mediocre leftover from Hexx' first album.

The proper yet polished production also does not improve the harshness of the album and all in all I hate to say it, but "Unstoppable Force" signified a step backwards. The wild, untameable element of the debut was missing. I do not know why Agent Steel changed their style so drastically, but time has told us that it was no good idea at all. The mix of speed metal, traditional metal and namby-pamby sections delivers mature compositions, but maturity has never been a value in itself. Seen retrospectively, it was no surprise that the band got into serious trouble after the release of "Unstoppable Force", to put it mildly. I am not surprised that Cyriis did not find any alien while singing these songs. Just in time, they had run for cover.