What do you get when you cross some talented musicians from New Zealand, a pendant for arranging some ear-catching progressive Rock and an album title of 'Kingdom Of Fear'?
This isn't an abstract joke or anything; this is the opening of my review for the second album by these modern, emotionally-driven edgy rockers! If you've been reading certain areas of the rock music press, then you'll be feeling the excited buzz surrounding the sound and style of Argent already. On the other hand if you're scratching your scalp wondering what the fuss is about, read on.
With a tight production, 'Kingdom Of Fear' creeps to rigid guitars and solid drums whilst incorporating melancholic and haunted vocals. The first track I heard from this album was their single 'Made Of Gold' which doesn't really prepare you for the entire album. I was hooked on the vocals from James Donaldson who also plays guitar, and his ability to blend them with the backing vocals from Matt Flower. This is a real key to why 'Kingdom Of Fear' maintains a looming shadow over proceedings.
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The understated, yet highly infectious chorus to 'Wilt The Garden' really epitomises what Agent pull off with apparent consummate ease on this album. They don't elaborate unnecessarily or throw bombastic sounds unless it really fits their craft.
Tenderness rides high on a razors edge with compositions like the title track and 'Like You Never Left'. If you can imagine Tool being made of glass, brittle and fragile to the touch on crisp, still, icy cold mornings; then you're getting the picture of what Agent have achieved here.
'Vondelpark' embraces the role of being the longest track within the walls of the 'Kingdom of Fear'. Starting off with a long face, it then builds with a guitar riff that seems tied and bound in a metal cage. As 'Vondelpark' stretches out, it inevitably takes the listener on a journey that builds with complexity. I've got to say that when I noticed that they state their influences include Dire Straits and Guns N'Roses, all it goes to prove is that when a band displays their influences it's more of a curiosity than a guide.
'Kingdom Of Fear' is a progressive album which requires a little time to settle, but the wait is worth it.
'Dark Dreams' is a highlight with its yearning to break the turmoil that lurks beneath the surface; 'Vultures' starts out like the Red Hot Chili Peppers around their 'Mother's Milk' era until an explosion of the Agent sound snaps you out of this misconception. Looking over the track list, it would be fair to say that out of the 13 songs here you only get nine proper songs.
Due to this being a Progressive beast, you get those moments which fit the complete picture like one minute or so atmospheric-driven pieces which are acceptable. If Agent were powering up their AC/DC riffs or hitting us between the eyes with some bludgeoning Pantera style punishment then these brief moments wouldn't be that welcome.
If you're looking for something darker, but gentle with it, then 'Kingdom of Fear' comes across with repeated listens like a solid gathering of musical ideas and expression. 'Kingdom Of Fear' might be a great companion when you're in the mood for some subtle contemplation whilst looking out the window at the onslaught of winter.
Listening to this album was a real pleasure and now I have the ominous task of adding it to my growing list of good albums that saw the light of day during 2013.
Made Of Gold
Wilt The Garden
Kingdom Of Fear
Like You Never Left
Lost In Transience