Agony Apocalyptic Dawning

For those who think the NOLA bands left destitute by Hurricane Katrina have had a hard time getting back off the ground in the face of tragedy, get a load of Agony’s tumultuous history. Having survived through the murder of a member and his family, as well as a suicide and their vocalist’s accidental near-severing of his left hand, the group are celebrating 13 years of, well, agony by re-releasing their long-unavailable 1995 debut effort along with an early demo. Bolstered by ear-splitting remastering, Agony’s familiar brand of mid-’90s technical death metal comes across as Suffocation by way of early Morbid Angel, with a few strange twists. Dizzying melodic runs, an assortment of diverse backing vocals and a thrashtacular rendition of a Bach fugue all help differentiate the group from many of their contemporaries. One can even hear Eastern-influenced scales and a touch of world music, possibly the precursor to dynamic death metal’s modern torchbearers Nile and Behemoth. The inappropriate sci-fi themed cover art and rather skimpy layout aside, this is a fine record that deserves the attention of genre buffs and delivers memorable structures and mammoth riffage to rival anything released since the turn of the century. (Disconcert)