Agonal Breathing
Pure Agony

As it goes, I found myself in a part of my music cycle where the lowest tuned riffs written by the lowest forms of subterranean life is what I seek.  So I go get lost in the pit of decaying offal that is the Slam Worldwide YouTube channel until I find something new that hits the vein for me.  And, aside, it’s unbelievable the glut of new brutal death metal bands that profligate the world wide wasteland.  ‘Pure Agony’ in name sounds like a crazy new street drug you might find in the pages of a comic book.  Then this  album is the latest in experimental super steroids.  Each song a hulking, psychotic Bane cracking Batman’s spine repeatedly at 220 beats per minute with vocals that sound like blood and spinal fluid splattering to the ground.  ‘Brutal death metal’ doesn’t even do justice to describe what some of the new global generation is producing, thus it’s now customary to add ‘Ultra’ to the beginning.  Vulvodynia out of South Africa, Endocranial representing Ukraine, Thailand’s Ecchymosis, all dropping some of the sickest, fastest, and rather unique offerings in the ‘ultra-brutal’ category from places that, pre-2005 maybe, weren’t on the average metal maniacs list of hot spots.  Texas might once have been the epicenter for brutality but the internet has been raising 8 year olds in Mumbai on the importance of Devourement and snare blasting regiments.  Globalization… they aren’t lying.

Agonal Breathing are made up of two guys that likely connected online and certainly over a fair distanceBrandon Smith from Kansas provides sick vocals that sound like a juicy blood gushing neck slit run through a phase shifter pedal, unwavering in delivery as they may be.  Luis Flores executes all instruments from a currently chaotic Venezuela. These one or two man bands aren’t totally rare in this genre but always admirable.  You really have to want it when you take on three instruments, and the recording process.  Now, some of these guys are genetically engineered musical freaks and display immense skill on both guitar and drums but generally with expanded responsibilities comes a compromise in proficiency.  Based on the level of musicianship I’m hearing this is the case with Agonal Breathing.  Brutal death metal that sounds like alien technology verging on wizard magic is not the aim on Pure Agony, but nor is it sloppy or amateurish.  There are few frills and operates with about as much musical range as you would find in a two piece kazoo band.  However, this also means it is void of any silly ‘core’ elements that you hear on records that have band photos where each dude has a flat brimmed hat and too many face piercings (I suppose if you follow this stuff you know what I mean) which is ironic considering the album ends with an unnecessary Epicardiectomy cover.  Like much of the what the album is for me, it’s done just right when you take it as a whole.  As near to playing the pocket as a brutal death metal band could.

The guitar playing is why I would venture to figure that Luis is a drummer first.  There is chugging, groove, and rhythmic bends accenting the end of a phrase exactly where one would expect.  There’s a workman like quality to it, like blacksmith-ing a crowbar.  What they get right is dead on what I search for in absurdly brutal death metal.  The mixing is stellar for this style.  There is so often some bizarre tone or imbalance with brutal death metal albums.  Almost as if the producer dialed it all in just to accidentally drastically shift some channel setting before handing over the raw tracks.  You know; the guitar sounds like the same take has been layered three tracks deep with a plastic bucket filter cranked in Pro Tools.  Or the kick drum sounds not like acoustic drums but two amplified empty milk jugs. Nope, not an issue here.  The guitar is down-tuned and thick with aural dimension that any brutal band should be striving for yet so often end up with under-cooked results.  I know there are many an internet form thread topic of cool dudes arguing about the high tuned snare sound as heard here.  I say nay! It’s just another factor in this genre that I count as a unique positive.  Blasting is a huge reason I love extreme metal and do cosign the hell out of a cutting and aggressive snare sound <ping-ping-ping-ping-ping>, deal with it!

You readers might be wondering why I’m not detailing song highlights and other earworm-y parts.  Well, there aren’t any really.  Which isn’t a slam on the band (pause…) in my view.  A record like this just needs to be considered within the context of it’s genre and not necessarily as to whether or not it is the greatest metal album of the millennium compared to historical classics.  It’s not as if these bands even strive for that level of recognition and it’s an expectation that sets you up for consistent disappointment as an appreciator. What Pure Agony does do is hit my disturbing pleasure buttons especially as a production snob.  I recognize that to many these band’s a comical aside but where the need arises Pure Agony delivers on the marketing jargon about being a crushing, gore-tastic, serious slam-a-thon of ULTRA brutal death metal.  Put that on the CD sticker if it isn’t already.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mars Budziszewski
February 27th, 2018


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