|Review: Agent Steel - Order Of The Illuminati|
|Order Of The Illuminati|
Label: Scarlet Records
Year released: 2003
Genre: Thrash Metal
Review online: June 22, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
for:Order Of The Illuminati
It’s been a while since "Omega Conspiracy" announced the return of one of the 80’s most storied and elusive bands. Agent Steel were much admired for their work in the past, and the reunion album (more than 12 years after the last release) was pretty well-received. This is the fifth full-length album from Agent Steel, and while I have never heard their 'classic' stuff from back in the day, this is an improvement over their last.
I liked "Omega Conspiracy" quite a lot, though I had some problems with it. I thought the production was a little lackluster, and the songwriting a bit rough. These problems have been fixed on "Order Of Illuminati" with room to spare. The production is much, much better this time around, with a fuller guitar tone and more punch to the drums. The mix is well balanced, so that the vocals don’t seem to overwhelm the music, as they sometimes did on "Omega Conspiracy."
The real improvements are with the songwriting and the vocals. The songs here are very well-written, with tighter arrangements and a more complete feel. There is a great deal of light n’ shade to the music for thrash, with more subtle chord progressions and soloing than last time out. The songs are less straightforward for the most part, and offer more variety overall. I said before that Bruce Hall could be a great singer if he’d settle down a little, and he has. On "Omega" he had some trouble staying on key, but he has really improved, and his strong vocals are one of the highlights of "Order Of Illuminati".
Some of the stuff here is just great. Album opener "Avenger" with it’s heavy crunch and wailing chorus, The epic "Insurrection", the punchy "Enslaved" – all first-rate thrash tunes to get the head banging and the fists flailing. In general the second half of the album is not as strong as the first half, but none of the songs are bad at all. This is less immediately gratifying than "Omega Conspiracy", but a much richer album that rewards repeated listens.
The CD cover is rather dull, not nearly as cool as the art for "Omega Conspiracy", but the interior design is a huge improvement. The lyrics are much better this time around as well, jettisoning the cram-as-many-words-in-as-possible approach in favor of balanced verse that adds rhythmic punch to the songs.
I look at this review and it seems I may have overdone comparing this to their previous effort, but what the hell – it’s the only other CD of theirs I’ve heard, I gotta have something to compare it to. It should tell you a lot that there aren’t any other bands to compare with Agent Steel, as they don’t really sound like anyone else at all, and nobody is really doing music like this anymore. It’s rare for a band that’s been around this long to still be metal, let alone kick this much ass. There’s a great album in Agent Steel’s future: this one isn’t quite it, but "Order Of Illuminati" is pretty damned good just the same.
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Interview with Juan Garcia (guitars) on July 7, 2003 (Interviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Interview with vocalist John Cyriis on October 8, 2019 (Interviewed by Luxi Lahtinen)
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