Call this metalcore-lite but Agents of Man’s debut, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS, reeks of desperation to get a commercial hit. The tracks on this release are ripe for the video channels and some could easily sneak on to modern rock radio with the right push but the watered-down aggression and nearly identical patterns from song to song make this release forgettable before it’s even finished. Bassist Mike Cools (ex-Sworn Enemy) is more than familiar with what it takes to crank out some old-school NYC hardcore but somewhere between leaving his former band and joining this one, he must have walked through some Atreyu-filled nightmare because the endless supply of shouted verses/clean chorus/solo/breakdown/repeat monotony becomes more tiresome than the forced sappy ballad that is also included. Cools knows his way around a bass guitar but that talent is vastly underused on this project as it smacks of a band who was formed on a reality show and has nothing more to offer than good looks and tired hooks.
“Death of Me” sets the tone with a squeaky clean melodic vocal in the chorus thanks to George M.. This song definitely has hit written all over it and the balance of aggression and melody that the band possesses is summarized here with that vocal performance offset by a killer breakdown. “No Tomorrow” starts out with that old-school hardcore feel but once the chorus kicks in, the melody sucks you in. “Blood Money” follows the same pattern as “Death of Me” and this is where the repetition begins to set in. The songs are not bad by any stretch but they really are interchangeable with one another. “Repercussion” breaks that spell to some degree and it holds some seriously heavy moments but “Can’t Run Away” quickly sucks the edge away that was created with the blatantly obvious pop-inclined riffing and whining vocals. The hideous emo-vocals of “Truth You Hide” and “Murder” could be Linkin Park/Incubus leftovers, while “Without A Trace” goes so far as to mimic the megaphone-like delivery of Slayer’s Tom Araya to prove that they are heavier than thou but it doesn’t take a genius to see right through that. Further proof is in the painfully melodramatic ballad “Be My Savior.” Being dynamic is one thing but this track fits like a square peg in a round whole with the rest of the album. On a positive note, COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS ends with one of the best tracks on the CD in “Headless.” The crawling riff is haunting and Cools’ bass wizardry finally gets a chance to show itself. George M.’s vocals are suitably aggressive creating an angle which I would have liked to have seen more songs take here.
Century Media cannot be faulted for signing a band with this much breakthrough potential but Agents of Man seems like a better fit on a label like Victory or even Roadrunner. Metal Blade has been doing it for the past year so I suppose it was inevitable that Century Media would want a piece of that pie, too. Granted, this is the band’s first full-length release but hopefully they will grow as songwriters on the follow-up and be less predictable because there is definitely potential there. If this doesn’t sell, something is seriously wrong because COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS is a catchy slice of diluted metalcore that the kids should eat up like Jell-O pudding cups. As for the rest of us…well, it’s good for what it is.
KILLER KUTS: “Death of Me,” “No Tomorrow,” “Headless”
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