Order of the Illuminati
Released: 2003, Scarlet Records
Agent Steel are due for a big break beyond their hallowed underground position, and the album ORDER OF THE ILLUMINATI is just the album that could do it for them.
ORDER OF THE ILLUMINATI mixes together elements of speed metal, thrash metal, power metal, and of course straight up heavy metal. For a metal fan with my tastes, this is a perfect fusion. The soaring vocals of Bruce Hall at times reminded me of Bruce Dickinson and at other times they bellow with a strength and power un-witnessed on the band’s last outing, THE OMEGA CONSPIRACY. The other strong point for me is the guitar playing of both Juan Garcia & Bernie Versailles. The riffing and especially the soloing is top notch with ripping solos where required and soulful fret melting playing elsewhere.
This is an album that upon first listen, I knew it was only going to get better with each listen. Such is the case with an album with a lot to offer like intricate melodies, loads of killer riffs, and lyrics that make for an interesting read. As of writing time for this review, I’ve heard the album about 10 times. I can’t stop playing the album, I’ve carted it back and forth to work this past week every day to listen to, so I expect it will only grown on me more in the coming weeks.
With regards to the mix/production, everything is crystal clear and sounds very good. The only exception was the beginning of “Earth Over Lucifer” (what a killer song title eh? Haha) which sounded too bassy/boomy. This track has an excellent and catchy chorus. The melancholic track “Insurrection” has a mid-eastern feel, and vocalist Bruce Hall sounds great here. This one is slower paced, at least until around 3:30 when all hell is unleashed and some ripping leads spray out like machine gun bullets.
“Apocalypse (World Without Windows)” also stood out for me and has so many cool heavy parts that just make you want to tear the shit out of something. “Forever Black” begins with, and is full of, some unique drumming from Rigo Amezcua. The vocal phrasing during the verses on this one is also insane! Again, the solos trade back and forth, ripping my head off. And let’s not leave out bassist, Karlos Medina. He has his own track entitled “Dance of St. Vitus” where he lays down some interesting stuff. This is not in the ripping nature of Cliff Burton’s “(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth”, but moreso like Anthrax’s “bass” from “Intro To Reality”. The instrumental “Kontrol” begins with part of the spoken intro (we are controlling transmission…) to one of better series television has offered…and that is “The Outer Limits”. This is not only an instrumental full of solo’s, there are sections with some cool sounding harmonized riffing. But yes, the solos are aplenty and do indeed smoke! Traces of wah (a guitar effect for those who have no clue what I’m referring to) can be heard on some of the solos (as in other places on the album) and it sounds great. I’m not usually a huge fan of this effect, but it sounds cool here. The album closes with “Human Bullet” which surprisingly starts out with some piano and a cool atmospheric feel that could have easily been lengthened with a bit more lead guitar. The song kicks in after just under a minute with a varied mix of speedy sections and more melodic sections that sort of remind me of Nevermore just a little, mainly on the chorus.
If you love heavy metal and have a special place for aggressive speed metal with some thrash elements, I can see no reason why you wouldn’t totally lose your mind over this release. After a few years wait between albums, Agent Steel are back to lay down the law and to kick your ass. You’d best be checking this one out, or forever be doomed a poseur!