Punk wasn’t built in a day, but it probably didn’t take the whole weekend. And this is the attitude that lies at the heart of A G E N T’s music, get the job done and then get the hell out of there. Fuck This Noise, a typically uncompromising statement of intent, is the sound of that early punk swagger colliding with more fluid and florid rockisms, the former providing the balls and belligerence, the latter adding a step up in terms of musicality. Once you remember that punk was born kicking and screaming, literally, out of rock and roll in the first place, the UK version from Bowie obsessed art-students looking for a way out, the US strain coming from more street level garage rock mutations, you realise that Fuck This Noise is not so much a meeting of genres but more a re-alignment across the generations. It also shows that everything is rock and roll if you drive it hard enough and strip it clean. And this drives hard and is bad to the bone.
Advance releases should act as a teaser, a sonic signpost to a forth-coming bigger release, a taste of things to come. And on the face of it that is exactly what Stop Talking was in regards to this album as it landed in the review pile only a few days previous. But it is a curious record, a teaser certainly but its dichotomous nature, an opening minute of aggressive punk-metal that their Bay Area home patch has traded on since the early eighties, followed by a longer payout formed of drifting guitar lines and restrained vocals left many questions unanswered too. What it did tell me though was to expect an onslaught of raw-edged, punk infused, hard and heavy music that blended simple progressions and direct sonic salvos with technical guitar work, but to also expect the unexpected, the odd musical trick or trap to throw me off balance. And for all the strangeness of Stop Talking, it did its job perfectly as that is exactly what I got.
I sometimes struggle with music in such an extreme end of the market, a lot of it doesn’t speak to me on a very personal level, that isn’t a problem, not everyone can be the target audience. But then I heard Our Darkest Shadows, a song that sits both comfortably within the sound that In Silent Agony make but also seems to explain to me the scope and potential of the music much better than any of the other songs.
There is a depth, drama and dark theatrical script at work here, a mad combination of Wagner, Jim Steinman, Fields of The Nephilim and Anne Rice; a metal opera for a dystopian world and once I had that key to the music I found I could unlock and appreciate what was going on around this central song.
Approaching the rest of the EP with this new understanding I also realised that a second obstacle had been dealt with. Most of the music I have encountered in recent years that falls into such genres – thrash, metalcore, death metal – has been….now, let me be delicate…not very well conceived, all front and bravado and shown up by a record such as this. Part of the accessibility of Treacherous is the production, separation of sounds, the layering and textures, especially those that wash emotively behind those visceral riffs, textures that help build tension and sculpt otherworldly atmospheres.
Existing fans of metal in all its forms will find a lot to like, the gothic set will appreciate its dark soundscapes and the more industrial minded will find its clinical beauty and cold apocalyptic foreboding to their tastes. But if like me you have been away from the extreme metal trenches for a while and are looking for a way back in, this is the perfect place to start. Okay chaps, over the top we go….