Agent Steel – No Other Godz Before Me Review

Ah, the never ending Agent Steel saga sprouts a new, fantastical chapter. As a youthful metal maniac when Agent Steel’s 1985 debut, Skeptics Apocalypse entered orbit, I was blown away by their Judas Priest on Super Soldier formula sound and the stratospheric, air raid vocals of the enigmatic John Cyriis.1 To this day I still hold that album and 1987 follow up Unstoppable Force close to my heart, mostly due to the over the over-the-top vocal performance of Mr. Cyriis. After Unstoppable Force, the band hit the skids, with the mercurial Cyriis leaving, returning, leaving, being adducted by aliens, and other sorts of drama and Machiavellian conspiracies unfolding. I waited patiently for the next Agent Steel opus as my college years drifted by, then grad school, then law school, and nothing. It wasn’t until 1999 that the band reappeared with Omega Conspiracy, but sadly without Cyriis. While I enjoyed the three second stage Agent Steel albums to lesser or greater degrees, things just weren’t the same without the mysterious frontman and his otherworldly pipes. Now after decades of rumored reunions we finally get an Agent Steel release with Mr. Cyriis back to reign as the sole original member. Can any album with nearly 35 years of built up fanboy anticipation live up to the colossal hype?

There’s a better chance you run into the business end of an alien rectal probe. In truth No Other Godz Before Me is a hot mess, but that doesn’t mean it lacks entertainment value. If nothing else you get to hear Mr. Cyriis once again wailing and caterwauling over the top of urgent, Painkiller-esque speed metal. The original blueprint from the classic days is dusted off and only slightly modernized, then off they go to rifle through Hangar 18 like it’s 1988 and Alf is still America’s favorite E.T. After an expectedly bizarre intro, Martian Chronicler Supreme Cyriis reclaims his crown on “Crypts of Galactic Damnation” and his once unstoppable voice is…different. After 30-something years away from music, he’s still recognizable and can still hit shockingly high notes, but he sometimes sounds like a cartoon character. One writer’s young daughter thought it was Elmo singing, and Tickle Me Agent Steel isn’t too far from the heavily redacted truth. Weird and wonky as he sounds, his vocals still work due to some righteously exuberant riffing and high level band support giving his performance a big push. You’ll definitely remember the Edguy on helium and bath salts chorus, that’s for sure. The title track is the big highlight – a straight up nostalgia trip back to the debut. This song alone makes the album worth a listen and makes my steel heart happy. The guitar-work is painstakingly faithful to the band’s classic era and it’s easy to pretend this is the material that should have appeared circa 1989.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album is an unstable haunted amusement park ride with some songs taking flight and others crashing back to Earth hard. Cuts like “The Devil’s Greatest Trick” and “Carousel of Vagrant Souls” punch through on raw aggression and lunatic moxie, while others like “Trespassers” and “Veterans of Disaster” end up more annoying than entertaining. The balance of good to bad weighs against the band overall, and only a few songs really impress from start to finish. Too many feel like poor attempts to reanimate a long dead band’s mystique with ham-fisted excess being the only tool left in the kit. Try as I might, and with three decades of goodwill in my back pocket, I just can’t bring myself to love cuts like “Sonata Cosmica” or “Outer Space Connection.” Add to that an absolutely craptastic album cover and a closing instrumental that adds nothing and you have one rough return trip from oblivion.

I’m unsure exactly what to make of John Cyriis’ vocals in 2021. Sometimes it seems like no time has passed since his powerhouse voice blasted the metal world into ass dust in 85. Other times he sounds forced, silly and waaay over-produced. On top of that, his approach to every moment of every song can be summed up as nuclear bestial overkill. Enough so to make Ripper look like the patron saint of vocal restraint. It’s sometimes too much to bear, even for a huge fan like myself. While the vocals can be an ugly dog show, the same cannot be said for the guitar work from Nikolay Atanasov and Vinicius Carvalho. This titanic twosome gives it their all, thrashing, bashing and shredding across the known galaxy and beyond. The riff foundation they provide for John’s crazed vocals often end up the best part of the songs, and when solo time arrives, they go all in. Said solos are kept faithful to the sound and style of the 80s albums, which is a lovely touch for barely continent geezers like me. These boys have tremendous talent and without them this whole enterprise would have crashed way faster and much harder.

No Other Godz Before Me is not the Agent Steel comeback I deserved but it’s the comeback I got. After so long a time I suppose I should be thankful for getting anything at all. I’ve heard alien conspiracy theories less bizarre than this album, but if fate and the Great Red Space Ape somehow keep Agent Steel together for another shot before I’m checked into metal assisted living, I’ll be there ready to bleed for the Godz. Talk about drinking the Kool-Aid, huh? If you never heard the 80s albums, get your ass in the time machine and do so. As for this one, approach carefully with a long handled probe.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Dissonance Productions
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 19th, 2021

Show 1 footnote

  1. He was Ripper Owens long before Ripper was.
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