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Unstoppable Perfection... - 100%

bayern, December 21st, 2011

"Unstoppable Force" is one of the ten most perfectly executed speed/thrash metal albums ever. Period. Whether the guys were deliberately aiming at such a consummate musicianship, or they threw this masterpiece just like that, effortlessly without too much care, remains a not very necessary afterthought. The truth is that they did manage to produce one of the milestones of the genre, although this led to the band's demise, since anything they would have released as an immediate follow-up would have paled in comparison, including their more recent output after the reformation in 1998.

The guys had already managed to establish a name for themselves with the compulsive collection of high-speed antics which the debut was, but there is no end to perfection, and here they were, two years later, with this monster of an album. Thrash metal was quickly gaining popularity among the metal fraternity, so it was no wonder that many bands, who started as power/speed metal acts, jumped the thrash wagon in the late-80's (Helstar, Liege Lord, Heathen, Laaz Rockit, Overkill, Flotsam & Jetsam, etc.).

Agent Steel made no mistake and joined the thrash legions, but all the individual features they had initially were preserved, including the very characteristic vocalist whose uniquely clean, melodic blend remains a phenomenon on the scene after all these years along with the Flotsams' Eric A.C. John Cyriis, regardless of his cantankerous, controversial persona, remains one of the most distinctive voices in metal, his delivery covering a wide gamut of nuances: emotion, dramatism, aggression, sadness, viciousness, spite, etc., although to some his high-strung wails may come as too much at some point.

Not to worry, though, the latter would have other elements to focus on, like the Bernie Versailles/ Juan Garcia guitar duo, for example, which for many would be the highlight: from the insane speedy shredding on the explosive title-track; to the sorrowful ballad-y beginning of "Chosen to Stay"; to the seismic heavy riffage of "Still Searching"; to the neck-breaking galloping riffs of "Rager"; to the extraordinary pyrotechnics and tempo-changes of "The Day at Guyana": one of the ten best instrumentals in metal history; to the beautifully sad tunes of the closing ballad "The Traveller" (and, do I have to mention that this is one of the finest ballads coming from the metal scene; I know, too many "bests" and "finests" today...). They sound so impeccable that one may only wonder why on earth they had to stick to the prime, direct speed metal barrage for more than half an hour two years ago (well, Versailles wasn't a part of the band at that stage yet); and, even more mysteriously: where are those gorgeous guitar harmonies and riffs now. Ever since the band reformed thirteen years ago they kind of search (and "still searching...") for the lost magical touch which seems to be so elusive to them at this stage, but which was there all along in the good old days, and which made this album such an overwhelming experience.

Hopes were raised high after the news last year that Cyriis was back in the band, and work on a new material has started. Alas, another acrimonious split followed suit, and Cyriis was gone again, presumably for good this time, replaced by the omnipresent Rick Mythiasin (Steel Prophet, New Eden, etc.). No complaints whatsoever, if it wasn't for the fact that "Unstoppable Force", like the good wine, gets better with each subsequent listen, sounding as lustrous and brilliant as it was during the time of release. Apparently those of us, who had left their hearts in the-80's with this album, would always be happy to hear the band's new output, but the truth is that we will always be "searching" for something to relate it to this "unstoppable" piece of art, which remains one of the true gems of metal, with the unique quality to shine brighter with the passing of time.