Review Summary: An absolute marvel full of crooning vocals, dark, highly poetic lyrics, and great songwriting; a supremely underrated album.
Vocalist Dax Riggs formed the metal band "Acid Bath" with guitarists Mike Sanchez and Sammy Duet (now of Goatwhore), bassist Audie Pitre and drummer Jimmy Kyle in 1991. After recording a demo entitled "Hymns of the Needle Freak" they landed a record deal with an independent label, where they released several albums showcasing their particular brand of caustic sludge-metal. Although many of their releases were received with critical acclaim, they never broke through to the mainstream. Acid Bath finally disbanded shortly after bassist Audie Pitre and his parents were killed in an unfortunate drunk driving incident. Three years after the demise of Acid Bath, Dax and Mike resurface by founding Agents of Oblivion and releasing the self-titled album. The album ended up being AoO's only release but one of the most underrated of all time.
Not enough can be said about Dax's contributions across this entire album. Vocally, Dax was completely flawless throughout. Even though he doesn't quite exhibit the vocal range of some of rock's high acclaimed singers (Chris Cornell, Robert Plant, Joey Fatone), his singing never ceases to impress me. The vibrato in his voice is eerie to the point that it gives me chills. In most bands, I'd venture to say that the vocals accompany the instruments; that the vocals exist simply as a side note. The exact opposite rings true for Agents of Oblivion: the music centers around the vocals. This is particularly evident in the songs "Wither", "Endsmouth", and "Hangman's Daughter", where Riggs' vocal melody carries each song from start to finish. Dax's lyrics are also worth mentioning. Whereas many bands have good vocals coupled with horrid lyrics (*cough* Godsmack *cough*), AoO really put together the whole package. The lyrics really read like poetry. For example, the lyrics from The Hangman's Daughter:
Woman and child
Like a feather falls from the sky
So dark, so dark in the moonlight
Naked we worship the night sky
No man can hold what the darkness can sow
Gonna leave an ugly skull when ya go
Tongues like horns violently born a new soul
The soft dead awake alive in love
As far as the rest of the band, everything is solid. Mike Sanchez does an great job on the guitar, with his swamp-rock riffs and bluesy, pentatonic-based soloing. While it certainly can't be considered the most technical of guitar playing, it suits the music perfectly and never tires the listener. Chuck Pitre (Audie's brother) also adds an atmospheric touch by playing the keys throughout the album. There's nothing special about the drums or bass on the album, but nothing that leaves the listener unfulfilled, either.
In the end, this is an album that I would highly recommend to any listener, metal fan or not. It's an album that I have a really hard time believing any music fan wouldn't appreciate.
Heck, even Dolph Lundgren and that one guy who played the T1000 in Terminator 2 highly recommend this album. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.
The Hangman's Daughter
Samples can be heard at: