Vicious Circle
The Art of Agony

Around since 1989, New Jersey’s Vicious Circle has been rather unprolific with only 2 full length albums (including this one) in their rather long and unspectacular tenure. Well, like a fine wine, age has graced Vicious Circle with the ability to grow better with age. And while The Art of Agony is hardly a world beater, it’s a solid death/thrash metal effort that puts a sort of East Coast Death metal and Bay Area thrash spin on the typically European sounding likes of Carnal Forge, Darkane, Konkra, and even Ritual Carnage.Without knowing you might initially think Vicious Circle are indeed from Europe, as they have all the traits; thick, chunky production, choppy, galloping riffs and tight percussion but a burlier exterior and a definite old school thrash touch to their new school death/thrash sound give them a distinct personality that sets them apart, although musically they are fairly standard. Vocalist Darrell Rapp is partially responsible for the slighter gruffer take on death/thrash, with a more varied and disturbing take on the usual seething rasp as he undulates and roars with far more character than his European peers. The music follows a similar tangent, being not quite as clean and concise as the European take on death/thrash with overall a grimier and sterner pace with a few more time changes and varied gait rather than the continual hack ‘n’ slash of their European counterparts. The Bay Area influence arises in the choppy, less fluid riffing and the solo work of Vinny DiBianca, which is laced with a typical New Jersey, back street, East Coast attitude and sneer.

Overall, the 11 songs have the discernable but not overpowering back bone of East Coast death metal, but glossed with an accessible, steely thrash veneer. There’s a lot of chugging, but also lots of tempo shifts and traditional thrash structures. The only problem with the generally tight and well played material is that none of it truly stands out or cries for replay. There’s a lot of interesting and genuinely well done moments on the album that will have thrash and death metal fans banging their heads equally, but none of it is truly great or memorable. Within the eleven tracks from opener “Dead Scent” through the intimidating “Phantasia Through Agony” and right until closer “Written In Flesh,” I can’t really remember much of the album despite the fact I quite enjoyed it. I remember the stout production that embraces death metal intensity and thrash metal’s crispness and that Darrell Rapp has an impressive voice, but other than that; nothing. Which is a shame, as the album is honestly rather good – when listening to it. But in spite of its energy and clever cross genre output, it still comes across as rather imaginative and generic even if it’s glossed with an undeniable energy and attitude that separates it from the squeaky clean European counterparts.

There is some enjoyment to be had here and I’d recommend it if you see it cheap somewhere, it’s worth your time and money, just don’t expect it to change your life or reach a classic status. This is a just solid, respectable effort from an apparently tireless and veteran band that finally looks to have made something moderately worth while after 16 years of obscurity.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
November 8th, 2004

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