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Apparently, it's all in the name. - 85%

hells_unicorn, December 6th, 2013

Occasionally there are these coincidental moments of prophecy (for lack of a better word) wherein a band will predict the rise of another. This isn't your typical case of an iconic band inspiring a number of emulators a couple decades later who intentionally take a song or album title from the source of inspiration as their own brand, but more an example of how the limited vocabulary of specialized metal genres can yield these odd little connections, namely a lonely 80s thrash band from Sweden (where few bands of note came into play at that time) named Agony, sporting a lone LP release dubbed "The First Defiance" that listens almost exactly like the Bay Area band by the same name as the last word in the title, and does so a full year before said band put out their own debut. This could almost be likened to one of those quibbles between franchises that resulted in "Ghostbusters" vs. "The Real Ghostbusters" with the former show preceding the latter despite not achieving the same success, or the famed Bill Hicks vs. Denis Leary rivalry for a more extreme and current example.

Musically speaking, Agony definitely takes their cues from the more musically adventurous side of the Bay Area thrash metal scene, forsaking the all fast, all aggressive, red character of Dark Angel and Slayer for something that definitely resembles the progressing, technical character that was being explored by Testament and Forbidden, though it doesn't go quite as far as the latter and definitely resembles the former a bit more in character of sound. The riffing character and frequent employment of consonant lead guitar lines is definitely a dead ringer for a "what would Eric Peterson do?" approach, though whoever is handling the solos isn't quite as flashy as Skolnick. The drumming is the one area where the band definitely reminds more of the Defiance path than the Testament one, as the amount of full speed carnage typical of "The Legacy" and much of "The New Order" is considerably less, and the frequent riff change ups do add a bit of a Dave Mustaine flavor to the mix.

For a band that originally fancied itself as being more of a punk styled outfit, Agony definitely went through some heavy progressing to end up where they were by the time this album hit the streets. The neck-splitting goodness heard on "Mass Manipulation" and "Storm Of The Apocalypse" definitely take an elaborate route, but have a surprisingly catchy air to them, as if a little bit of a mainline Metallica influence courtesy of "Ride The Lightning" managed to sneak its way into the chorus work on here, whereas the riffs crush and shift in a manner that almost seems to predict what would happen on "Rust In Peace", though in a far less overt way. But the real catch on here hits the speakers at the album's conclusion in "Deadly Legacy", which has all the melodic trappings of an early 80s Iron Maiden anthem played about 50% faster and with a Chuck Billy gruff vocal approach. The only place where this album wants for anything is that Pete Lundström's vocals are a bit derivative and are generally one-dimensional, but they get the job done.

What makes "The First Defiance" work so well is the same thing that made all the other iconic late 80s Bay Area albums such as "Eternal Nightmare" and "Forbidden Evil" obligatory classics, which is a solid base and a megaton of energy to boot. In many respects, it represents a slightly transitional movement away from the relentless assaults heard out of the mid 80s German bands which were to eventually pave the way for Sweden's death metal scene, much as Slayer and Possessed did for Florida's respective scene, but without the heavily repetitious and long-winded epic writing that was ushered in with "Master Of Puppets". If "The Legacy" and "Product Of Society" are on the radar, than this album is clustered in right with them, begging for younger listeners who've been brought in by the likes of Tantara and HeXen to give it a go. Thrash in good health young metallic Montague.