AGENCY PANIC – Single Review: “The Middle”

Agency Panic3

Agency Panic is an Irish rock band who, over the past year, have been establishing themselves as one of the more exciting and innovative acts in the progressive metal scene. They seem to prefer maintaining a low profile, however, as the few photos they have on their social media accounts are dark, with their faces in shadow, and I know them only by their first names:  J.D.K. on vocals, Tubs on guitars, Lee on bass, and Revsy on drums. My sense is that they want their music to speak for itself, rather than the focus be on them personally.

In July 2018, they released their monumental debut single “Panic” (which I reviewed) as the first installment from what they’re calling their ‘drip feed’ EP, which is being released one song at a time. The incredibly intense song set a very high bar for the band, with face-melting riffs, explosive percussion and fierce, chill-inducing vocals. I loved it so much it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2018 list.

They followed up that October with their second single “Lie”, a darkly beautiful banger featuring more of their signature scorching riffs and thunderous percussion. Now they’ve returned with their third installment “The Middle“, which dropped June 14. It’s another winning single, serving to further bolster Agency Panic’s flawless resume for putting out stellar progressive metal songs that challenge the listener. Unlike a typical song with a catchy melody that quickly bores into our brain, progressive metal (or any progressive form of other music genres for that matter) often requires a closer and/or repeated listens to fully absorb and appreciate the nuance of the unusual melodies, song structures, lyrics and instrumentals, all of which “The Middle” has in spades.

In keeping with their penchant for maintaining a bit of mystery, the poetic lyrics are somewhat abstract and open to interpretation. When I asked J.D.K. of the meaning of the song, all he would tell me is that “it all took place in the middle of Amsterdam.” The song opens with a twangy electric guitar riff and a whisper of ominous synth, then a somber drumbeat kicks in as J.D.K. speaks in a rather unsettling echoed voice about what seems to be a dream or possible acid trip:

Blinding blinding flicker
Sparks of light
Creeping dilations
Pupils rise
Abstract thoughts
Deceptively distort, shadows crawl to the sirens song
As it all dissolves the show has just begun.
Through to black
Beyond the veil
The oceans of chaos were about to sail…

The guitar suddenly explodes into gnarly riffs of shredded distortion as deep bass and heavier percussion are added, and J.D.K.’s vocals turn more impassioned as he sings:

Invasive influence
Hooked direct to the mainline.
Re con struct self
Time has melted design
Illusion slowly reveal
Spilling right into the dream…
Ahhhhhhhhhh
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh
In the loop again
In the loop again
In the loop again

By the third verse, everything ramps up to near-frenzy, with screaming guitars and speaker-blowing drums as he fervently wails the lyrics that seem to speak of being reborn into a new reality:

Erasing what you think is real
Ego peels
Stripped down to bone to which you’ll find
One mind’s eye
Seductively it reels us in
Hooks through the skin
Past present future on a plain
Reincarnate
Walking through the void
Entrance to the other side
Take take fear…

Step from the darkness into the light
As movement slowed and we bent time 

The song closes with a fadeout of reverb, leaving me awestruck by its magnificence. Agency Panic are proving themselves to be phenomenal songwriters and musicians worthy of notice, and I’m thrilled to be following them on their musical journey as they continue to release more songs.

Connect with Agency Panic:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Panic” on  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase on  Bandcamp /  iTunes

FICTION PEAKS – Album Review: “Citizen”

Every now and then we all come across an artist or band whose music instantly touches us in a powerful way.  Fiction Peaks is such a band, and I knew they were something special the very first time I heard their music. Incorporating elements of alternative rock, shoegaze, dream pop and electronica, the Dublin, Ireland five-piece combine beguiling melodies and a cornucopia of instruments to create songs of exceptional beauty and complexity. I featured them on this blog a year ago, then again in March when I reviewed two new songs – “Before the End” and “Jinx,” – which you can read here. Those songs are included on their stunning debut album Citizen, which dropped in late April (and I’m finally reviewing at long last).

Citizen

Fiction Peaks is comprised of five remarkable musicians: Joey Doyle (Lead vocals, Guitar, Sampler), Cillian Kenny (Bass, Trumpet), Barry Lyons (Backing Vocals,Synths),  Joáo Francisco (Drums) and Brian Giles (Guitar, Loops).  To say that they’re all masters of their craft is an understatement; their instrumentals are perfection from start to finish, and Doyle’s vocals are sublime. Citizen delivers ten tracks that vary in style and length (from two and a half to over seven minutes), but all feature the band’s exceptional guitar work that’s a primary characteristic of their phenomenal sound.

Fiction Peaks New

Raincheck,” kicks things off with Francisco’s nimble percussion, Giles’ looping guitar and Doyle’s soaring vocals. The layered, multi-textured guitars are fantastic, and Kenny lays down a bass line just heavy enough to keep things grounded. It all builds to a crescendo in the bridge before calming back down, guitars swirling beautifully. The track is nearly six minutes long but feels over in an instant.  The exhilarating, hard-driving “Jinx” arrives on a wave of hammering drums, heavy buzzing bass and frenetic jangly and shredded guitars, proving the guys know how to rock.

And rock they do on the seven minute-long “Shimmer.” The first half of the track offers up awesome crunchy riffs, a mesmerizing bass line, and a head-bobbing drumbeat. At the halfway point, exuberant jangly guitars enter the scene, accompanied by delicate synths, while Doyle sings “The world is yours, this time.” The gentle guitar solo at the outro is wonderful.

As much as I love their rock-oriented songs, it’s on their slower compositions that the beauty of their sound really shines. “Before The End” is a standout and one of my favorites, with a lovely piano movement and Lyons’ warm synths that create an ethereal soundscape. Strings and percussion are added along with acoustic and electric guitars, increasing the song’s power but not diminishing it’s dreamlike quality. The poignant lyrics are beautifully sung by Doyle:

Before the end, before the credits, before the curtain’s drawn on a worn-out day. You shrugged it off. You rolled with the punches. All torn and battle-scarred as night gave way. /You could have walked, ran for the exits. A testament to strength is why we’re here. You have the words, you are the reason, the reason we stand tall in our finest hour. With nothing ventured, there is nothing gained. Tried teaching me to let go. Your stubborn student, your own flesh and blood. It’s only understanding.

The provocative and visually powerful video for “Before The End” was directed by local artist Colm Giles (brother of band member Brian).  According to a write up featured on the website Nialler, Giles explained “My take on ‘Before The End’ was to make an artistic observation of the times we are living in. I did this by looking at elements of the Spanish Civil War – showing ordinary people fighting against fascism. With the current subtle rise of the far right, and populist politics, mistakes of the past can be repeated if we don’t all pay attention.

Another gorgeous track is “Spring’s in Bloom,” with sweeping violins, stunning guitars, gentle percussion and Doyle’s earnest vocals singing the hopeful lyrics about what I’m guessing is a couple awaiting the birth of their first child and trying to make their relationship work out: “We’ll be right, we’ll be fine, until the start of life.”

The band shows its folkish side on the lovely “In for a Penny,” and the title track “Citizen,” a short song with a languid melody, acoustic guitar and beautiful synths. The xylophone at the end is especially nice. The lyrics speak to escaping the cruel burdens society heaps upon us: “Society chisels at the weakest part of us. The chink in our armour is amusement for the rest. But if I had my way, I’d be leaving here today. From my rear view mirror, I’d bid farewell to the fray.”

As its name suggests, “Synesthesia” is an epic synth-heavy track over seven minutes in length. Starting off with a hypnotic repeating synth beat and Doyle’s earnest vocals, at 2:37 the drumbeat quickens, and with his charming Irish brogue, Doyle speaks the words: “We too are only dust, the same substance. Distance is apparent in a not so perfect world. Where we dreamed of living in space. Floating happily as cosmic debris. / Breaking free of industrial zombieland, and the chain of misery. We will open our ears to the whistling of the wind. / The planet is alive, so reach out to the visionary.” As the song progresses, the drumbeat becomes heavier, now accompanied by more powerful synths, soaring strings and exquisite jangly guitars that continue to the end.

Album closer “Electric Galleria” is a phantasmagoria of luxurious, dreamlike synths that float and soar through the airwaves and into our senses. The track is the perfect ending to a magnificent album that is unquestionably one of the best of 2017.

Follow Fiction Peaks:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase it:  BandcampiTunes

EP Review: FICTION PEAKS – “Before the End/Jinx”

Fiction Peaks is a talented five-piece indie band from Dublin, Ireland. Their impressive sound is hard to pin down, but it incorporates elements of alternative rock, shoegaze, pop and electronica. I featured them on this blog in June 2016, which you can read here. The band members – all of whom are highly accomplished musicians – include Joey Doyle (Lead vocals, Guitar, Sampler), Cillian Kenny (Bass, Trumpet), Barry Lyons (Backing Vocals,Synth),  Joáo Francisco (Drums) and Brian Giles (Guitar, Loops). They just dropped a new two-track EP on March 13, in advance of a planned release of their first full-length album Citizen, set for April 21st.

Fiction Peaks

The first track “Before The End” is positively sublime. A lovely piano movement and warm synths create an ethereal soundscape, then strings and percussion are added along with acoustic and electric guitars, increasing the song’s power but not diminishing it’s dreamlike quality. The poignant lyrics are beautifully sung by Doyle, with his mesmerizing heartfelt vocals that contain a hint of Irish brogue. To me, the lyrics seem to speak of not giving up, and fighting for what is valuable or meaningful in life, whether it be a relationship or an important cause. “You could have walked, ran for the exits. A testament to strength is why we’re here. You have the words, you are the reason, the reason we stand tall in our finest hour. With nothing ventured, there is nothing gained.

Coinciding with the EP, Fiction Peaks also released a provocative and visually powerful video for “Before The End” that was directed by local artist Colm Giles (brother of band member Brian).  According to a write up featured on the website Nialler, which you can read here, Giles explained “My take on ‘Before The End’ was to make an artistic observation of the times we are living in. I did this by looking at elements of the Spanish Civil War – showing ordinary people fighting against fascism. With the current subtle rise of the far right, and populist politics, mistakes of the past can be repeated if we don’t all pay attention.” Have a look:

The second track “Jinx” couldn’t be more different, with a rapid, driving beat and heavier electric guitar, bass and drums that give it a harder rock sound. The guitar work on this track is outstanding. Listen to “Jinx” here.

These two tracks are further proof that Fiction Peaks is an amazing band that never fails to deliver, and I eagerly await the release of their full album.  Connect with them:

Website / Twitter / Facebook / YouTube / Soundcloud

Their music may be purchased on Bandcamp.