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YOU CAN’T STOP (listening to) IT! - 100%

Xyrth, February 9th, 2011

How’s it that this masterpiece has only one review so far? Well, that’s about to change. Not that I disagree with the former reviewer. Oh no, quite on the contrary, I just feel compelled to echo his opinion and totally recommend this power/speed ouvre d’art. For this is like the american answer to Helloween’s Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II, and surely stands as one of the finest examples of its genre. In a similar manner to said album, we have here quite a collection of excellent riffs, bad-ass solos, a majestic rhythmic section and an outstanding vocal performance, all perfectly mixed and produced.

Agent Steel started with a pretty solid release, the 85’ Skeptics Apocalypse, an awesome record that shook the US metal scene. Not much power metal was being done that side of the Atlantic and certainly not much had that album’s amount of quality and potential. But just like a “message from space” that debut only heralded the greatness that would follow. Two years later, the mothership arrived with Unstoppable Force, aiming to conquer the metal world with its soaring screams, blazing guitar attack and ultra cool UFO-themed lyrics, quite a novelty for the time and genre.

Let’s start with the vocals, shall we? John Cyriis reminds me a lot of Kai Hansen, which is a terrific guitarist and a hell of an influent power metal musician and band founder, but vocally he sucks, totally. Cyriis is like a perfected Hansen, as if he was abducted by an advanced race of metal-craving aliens who performed vocal enhancement experiments upon him and returned him to Earth to inhumanly sing in Agent Steel’s 80’s albums. He is just flawless here, his timbre in perfect control, from his soft, almost narrating voice during calm sections, like the beginning of “Chosen to Stay”, to the Michael Kiske-like soars on the title-track (Helloween comparisons continue to emerge) when he goes “UNSTOPABLE FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORCEEE!” nearly at the end of that song. Awesome! At times he also reminds me of a slightly higher Bruce Dickinson.

The dual guitar approach of Juan Garcia and Bernie Versailles is another highlight of the album. Both their high-energy riffs and their slick soloing are extremely memorable and catchy as hell. Their thrash-like riffs are so headbangeable and blatantly mighty (like the ones at beginning of the title-track), they make me wonder why current power metal bands don’t (or can’t) do riffs like that anymore. It just puts them in evidence so clearly. The solos are pretty good as well, not too pretentious and over-blown but fairly technical and fast enough to make you shout “HELL YEAH!” in ecstasy.

Drum and bass (unlike that electronic muzak genre) are magnificently done here, with a fair amount of fast double bass and grooving rhythms. Both instruments are clearly listenable, though the drums are slightly low on the mix. The bass has a rich organic tone and Michael Zaputil’s work here is impeccable and highly memorable, and I’d say he almost has the same presence as the guitars. And while drummer Chuck Profus work is not that outstanding, it also provides an excellent performance, from his slow rocking timing to the fast-paced fills and double bass patterns.

Highlights include… well, pretty much all the 39 minutes found here are split into nine timeless jewels of power/speed, starting of course with the opening title-track, perhaps the best track found here. However, others songs don’t stray far, like track number two, “Never Surrender”, with its extremely catchy chorus and propulsive rhythm, or “Chosen to Stay” which evolves from a moody ballad into a bad-ass rocking number. “Still Searchin’” slows the pace a bit and shows the band capability of writing and performing immortal rocking anthems as well. Then of course we have the all balls-out “Rager”, also a strong contester for the best song here (and my personal favorite) with its amazing riffage and a kick-ass gang-shouted chorus:

NOW WE MUST JOIN Forces and rage!
Disturbing the Scoffs,
Neighborhoods fear, THE METAL ATTACK!
He's coming to town, He is ... THE RAGER!
He will hunt you down, He is ... THE RAGER!
He's coming to town, He is ... THE RAGER!

Right after that, we have the amazing instrumental track “The Day at Guyana”, in its 2.0 version, greatly improved over the original, which appeared at the end of the Mad Locust Rising EP. This one here’s on the same level as Metallica’s “Call of Ktulu” or Anvil’s “March of the Crabs” as one of all-time instru-metal’s greatest. Filled with awe-inspiring riffs and lots of tempo changes, all the musicians (minus Cyriis) greatly contribute to its awesome performance, all instruments shining bright like an otherworldly unknown-alloy metal saucer.

After the yet again Helloween-ish (especially in the melodic break at the middle of the song) and still excellent “Nothin’ Left” we’re left with the calm ballad “The Traveler”, which opens up with mellow solos by the guitar team and is carried on by an amazing heart-full performance by Cyriis, which “travels” between near-falsetto singing, some eerie whispering and passages of mesmerizing narration to finally conclude this hell of a USPM masterpiece, right there sharing the same echelons as Jag Panzer’s “Ample Destruction” and Riot’s mighty “Thundersteel” .

Don’t know why this band broke up after reaching this tremendous heights but they’d reform a decade later with renewed strength, a new vocalist and a more thrash-infused sound. They’d produce three more albums, with varying quality fluctuating between OK to pretty good, but to me, they’d never fully regain the force once possessed. Fortunately for us metalheads, last year the word spread about John Cyriis himself returning as the frontman of the Agents of Steel. Meaning no disrispect to Bruce Hall, that’s some awesome news and I’m pretty excited for any new material the guys produce and by the possibility of seeing them live and performing classics from this album and their earlier material. Meanwhile, I just have to keep on recommending this flawless Unstoppable Force to any power/speed metal fan out there. GET IT NOW!!!