July 16, 2018 The Agony Scene – Tormentor (Album Review)
It has been just over a decade since we last heard from Metalcore outfit The Agony Scene, who for all basic purposes called in quits in 2008. On Friday, July 20, 2018, they rise like a phoenix with Tormentor, thanks to Outerloop Records/Cooking Vinyl.
The Agony Scene formed in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2000. While the band’s original, founding members had intended their sound to be Christian Metal, with an extensive array of lineup changes and time would come a shift toward a more traditional Metalcore sound (that is, back when that categorization still meant something). Plugging away on the Tulsa scene and expanding their range, the boys would manage to release three full-length offerings over their seven-year career span – 2003’s The Agony Scene, 2005’s The Darkest Red, and 2007’s Get Damned.
With just over a decade having passed, The Agony Scene – Vocalist Mike Williams, Guitarists Chris Emmons and Brian Hodges, and Bassist Jay White – are now poised to make a brutal return with the 10-song Tormentor. While the album is not exactly a concept collection, there is an underlying theme to the record. Says Guitarist Emmons: “There is an underlying theme to much of the record, and that is the idea of an insane, manipulative creator, a ‘Tormentor’ of all mankind, if you will. The lyrics also touch on the idea that an unquestioning belief in such a creator and an infallible doctrine can lead to a more chaotic and dark world in many cases.”
So, has the time away made The Agony Scene go soft? Quite the opposite! Tormentor begins with “Awakening,” an under one-minute introduction of sounds that build a tension into the album’s first single/video, “Hand of the Divine,” where jack-hammering attacks with vicious howls and Gothic atmospherics set the overall tone for the entire collection. Here, the band explore the Rubio murders that took place in Brownsville, Texas in 2003.
They continue the incendiary on the over five-minute “Like the Weeds in the Field,” with pummeling, rapid-fire drum attacks and driving rhythms that seems to eke toward sounds more extreme and Death-y. Whatever the case, Williams gives a truly killer performance here, all demon howls and vicious growls. This continues into “The Ascent and Decline” before they tackle one of the album’s clear stand-outs, the carnal inferno of “The Submissive.” Here, The Agony Scene draw some delicious parallels between those that kneel on bended knee in the name of the Lord and those that, well, genuflect in the name of wanton flesh and scrumptious sin.
“The Apostate” continues the full-throttle explosion with more slaughtering drum work and driving guitar attacks, while there is a kind of delicious Bleeding Through vibe that permeates the core of “Mouthpiece.” Meanwhile, for the album namesake, “Tormentor,” they continue to emit a sonic slaughter that is a blistering wall of sound. In fact, it is no surprise that “Serpent’s Tongue” goes brutal, with demonic growls alongside jack-hammering drums and those driving, racing guitars. Ultimately, they end with another pummeling, in the form of “Mechanical Breath.”
With Tormentor, The Agony Scene prove that even a decade away has not made them soft. The brutal collection embraces all things heavy and gives a bloody good, slaughtering performance, and yet, there is too much ‘same’. Which is to say that, while Tormentor is an enjoyable album, with some tweaking and a little diversity, it could have been a truly inspired album.
With this release, The Agony Scene are merely proving that time has not softened a single bone in their vicious bodies, and that blistering extremism is still flowing through the blackened blood in their bitter hearts. Which is fabulous, and our Metal horns salute it, but every single song goes for the kill and, ultimately, that creates a sense of too much uniformity. For these reasons, CrypticRock give The Agony Scene’s Tormentor 3.5 of 5 stars.