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Which Star Did This Seed Fall From? - 81%

bayern, December 18th, 2019

This is the first question I’m going to ask John Cyriis when we meet next month for our regular debunking of the current metal trends… kidding here, I’m not meeting him any time soon… although I may… I just haven’t set my mind on it. And I have to hurry, otherwise I’ll have to chase him into some other dimension through this really narrow Bermudan ass… sorry, loophole… I think I should go on a diet… but only after the New Year festivities.

Anyway, I’m listening to this only track here for the umpteenth time today, and I wonder: how exactly do you evaluate a single composition? I’ve only done it once, also as a New Year present for the audience here, but that was for Bulldozer’s “Love Train” single; that one was a "pieca shit, walk away" stuff and was easy… but here we have a product of John Cyriis, hello! Mystery Man Number One on the metal circuit, helloooo! On top of that, this last Cyriis initiative before the series of Agent Steel reunions/dissolutions was spawned in Amsterdam … no, not the New Amsterdam that you all know, the Manhattan-spearheaded one… I’m talking about the original one… yep, it was spawned in the one in Holland… hopefully not from a poppy seed.

Coming after a gigantic, over a decade long, creative hiatus this song, or rather hymn, is obviously an ode to all Gods, or rather Godz of man, tangible and imaginary alike. Cyriis first tested the waters under the Outer Gateways moniker, but this pretentious, mouth-filling name was swiftly scrapped and replaced with something more stellar. The man hides his true identity behind the Max Havlock alias this time, a slight change from his Black Reign alter ego (Max Kobol), probably another extinct spy from the Cold War era... Cyriis’ brother in arm in this new enterprise is another mysterioso, the Japanese guitar player Shuichi Oni, with no other act whatsoever in his resume. Japanese connections are bound to produce surprises, and this one is no exception; in fact, those familiar with Cyriis' previous spells (Pontius Prophet, Black Reign) after the first Agent Steel disassembly, will be left irrevocably shaken and irredeemably stirred…

cause this is nothing like the classic power/speed metal heroics cooked on the works of those two. Cyriis attempts something entirely different here, planting the (stellar) seeds for a more far-reaching progressive speed/thrash/death metal hybrid, or for a spacey extreme progressive metal opera if you like. To begin with the shortcomings: the sound quality is the familiar one from the works of the other two mentioned formations; blurry and plain murky at times. If that decision could be viewed some kind of an archaic boost to the proceedings earlier, here it plain impedes the ambitious rifforamas which flicker in and out of existence, materializing either as a dissonant psychedelic parade or as a dramatic deathy cumulative the latter fighting hard to be the leitmotif here, largely due to its more frequent application. Cyriis has finally voted to settle for his overtly expressive, pronounced tenors from the Agent Steel recordings, and leads the engaging soundscapes with panache and authority, never pitching it inordinately high like it was the case on the Black Reign demo; he is conscious of not stifling the lofty pyrotechnics of the Jap the latter weaving complex psychedelic tapestries unperturbed by the muffled production, hitting a few highs in the lead department as well although his true vocation are clearly the dissonant, disorienting guitarisms which will keep the listener guessing: is this another tribute to the old school, or is it a reverential read of the modern canons?

The truth is that this is neither; this is an encompassing conglomerate of overlapping musical currents that is hard to define by strict segregational stylistic terms. It reminds of both schools at various times with Cyriis’ excellent, highly emotional performance serving as the binding link between the two, his Japanese colleague feeling equally comfortable with whatever trend he has to immerse himself in. Genre-transcending for sure, this isolated phenomenon in Cyriis’ career is a sheer display of thinking outside-the-box, a progressive metal curiosity that could still be viewed just a sketch for something magnanimous and even less definable.

Is it better than the Pontius Prophet or Black Reign efforts, though? Hm, not quite sure… rather not. It’s a bit strange, this new direction taken, this lone number also having the aura of a solitary probe that may as well have hit an underwater stone, causing the crew to abandon the new trajectory. In the case of the other two outfits the way was clear: retro power/speed metal to the max be it more straight-forward and pummelling (Pontius Prophet) or complex and more intricate (Black Reign), Cyriis well versed in whichever diversion of said hybrid, beaming with confidence and enthusiasm. With this new at the time seed he kind of hesitates, “Well, I’m putting my heart and soul into it, as always, but I’m not quite certain where I want to reach with it… the sky is by all means the limit with such an encompassing delivery, but how ready am I to explore these less fathomable musical dimensions, taking a U-turn from my classic power/speed metal principles?”

A hypothetical dilemma, of course, which may as well be ungrounded having in mind that Cyriis and Oni had also started another venture at around the same time, S.E.T.I.; the style is reportedly modelled after the composition reviewed here; in other words, a salivating proposition which even had a title ("The 5th Race and the Eleven Dimensions") for a while, but at this point in time this idea seems partially (or completely) abandoned, largely due to the next-in-line Agent Steel reunion on the horizon. Still, the seed planted back then may as well prick the ground with the sixth Agent Steel full-length opus in the makings, the title at present being “No Others Godz Before Me”… surprisingly, no Japanese or Dutch connections anymore in sight, but Bill Simmons, the guitar player from the original line-up, has been brought back into action.

Hey, stubborn man this Johnny… or rather Max… continues to misspell “gods” to everyone’s annoyance... or maybe this is the new linguistic tendency, I don’t know… the man has been there into the unknown and back… he surely knows better. Linguistic pickings aside, let’s hope his new music delivers… although one hardly doubts that: it has long since become obvious that whatever the man touches he turns to gold. So pack up all your troubles, and trust the good old Mad Max: in this or in any other dimension he may cross over in the future, he will deliver… with myztery, inzanity and geniuz to zpare.

John Cyriis, Post-Agent Steel, Take 3 - 87%

Jophelerx, April 20th, 2015

John Cyriis has long been speed metal's resident oddball/schizophrenic/conspiracy theorist, jumping among a few early projects like Abattoir and Sceptre before settling for a somewhat longer, more well-known stint in Agent Steel; as most of you reading this are probably aware, he stayed there for 2 albums and an EP before beginning some extremely short-lived projects on his own; first releasing a two-song demo as Pontius Prophet in 1988, then two years later a three-song demo as Black Reign, and finally over a decade of musical dormancy before this incredibly strange and interesting single song demo in 2002. According to Cyriis, in his usual broken, paranoid schizophrenic style, this time was spent "Rigorously Dealing With Life On This Pathetic Planet--And With It's Sinister Denizins More Popularly Know As 'The Human Race......'". He certainly elaborates, as you can easily see for yourself by reading the entire interview with him during his Stellar Seed period - but of course the rest of it is as gloriously and bewilderingly cryptic as is that particular quote. This utterly strange, disconnected personality is highly present in Stellar Seed's music - in fact, I'd argue moreso than in any other material Cyriis has released to date, although Pontius Prophet and Black Reign are still pretty weird.

The thing about the Stellar Seed song is that it just sounds utterly unlike anything else I've ever heard in my life - likely anything else that's ever been released, really. Pontius Prophet and Black Reign were unusual and progressive, but they still basically fell within the ballpark of speed/power a la Agent Steel. Stellar Seed is defined on this website as speed metal, and I suppose that's really the best term for it, but there's absolutely no point of reference from it to any speed metal band I've ever heard. It definitely seems to have some similarities to black metal as well, although I'm not sure if that's an actual influence or just coincidence - the tremolo riffing and chaotic atmosphere, coupled with the coincidentally low-fi production are what constitute the similarity, but then it's not at all speed/black as you would normally expect, like Midnight or other Venom-influenced bands; I've said it multiple times already, but I'll say it again because of how immediately evident it is as soon as you hear the song: it's utterly unlike Midnight, Venom, and everything else.

That said, it's fucking fantastic. The chaotic, cyber-sounding riff along with Cyriis's distant, desperate yelps serve to create a feeling of abduction by or at least exploration of some bizarre, malevolent planet, and the completely unprofessional sounding yet sort of foreign and offsetting repeated chant of 'Bow/pray to the Godz of Man' at the end hammers home the fact that you're supposed to be slave to some superior race of aliens, for some reason identifying themselves as the 'Godz of Man.' It doesn't make a lot of sense, but the atmosphere rules, and the juxtaposition of the music, the lyrics, and the perpetually paranoid and insane Cyriis is just awesome as shit. This is one of the most out there songs I've ever heard, but I love it. I only wish he'd continue to make fucking insane music so that I can simultaneously relish in and be extremely confused by it, as I am with many of his previous releases, this one most prevalently. If you're interested in Cyriis or just really crazy melodic metal, check this out.

John Cyriis, one of The Godz of Man - 78%

kai_hansi, April 21st, 2009

That’s got to be some signal of the apocalypse: John Cyriis is back in business! The so called Stellar Seed project has shifted into SETI (or S.E.T.I.). But just on paper since it’s the same line-up, I mean, Johnny and his friend Shuichi Oni. Anyway, to start warming up I decided to give this demo a shot. And I’m glad I did.

The sound is very similar to what he was doing in Agent Steel, you have the high-pitched vocals, the speed metal riffs and incredibly fast drumming, the shouts and corals (if you can call that way) in the chorus and through the song, but you have some differences, the add of keyboards and/or sinth in the verses to increase that sort of alien abduction atmosphere, the solo is a little more melodic than in Agent Steel. The production is, in my opinion, worse than it should, the drums and the keyboards are a bit loud, you can’t hear the vocals too well during the verses and in some parts everything appears to be mixed. Despite all this, the song is enjoyable.

The track starts with some weird metallic alien voices (it remind me of the opening track of Agent Steel’s Skeptics Apocalypse, “The Calling”), and, without any warnings, begins a speed metal with an outer-space feeling guitar riff, followed soon by the drums, that is repeated a lot through the song. And then Cyriis comes in, with a high-pitched wail, and start singing the lyrics. As I said, there is some keyboards/sinth during the verses. An interesting point is that the lyrics are nearly impossible to understand and perhaps that was his intention. The chorus structure is different from those in Agent Steel’s songs, but still similar, with Cyriis singing over some background corals. The solo starts during the second chorus and continues ‘till the end of the song while some corals sings something about “The Godz of Man” over it. When it stops the same weird metallic voice from the beginning reappears and the song ends.

It’s a very good weird track, but everything is weird when coming from Cyriis. The overall impression of this song makes me worried about the next release under the name of SETI. The major question that is in my head is: How far will John Cyriis madness go? My advice to you is: get this while Cyriis is still among us and making metal.