Agony of Death by Holy Moses
Release date : September 2008
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
In June 2008, Holy Moses announced the title of the group's eleventh studio full length album. Christened Agony of Death, the record was slated for a late September issue. Blue Castle Studio near Hamburg is where Agony of Death was largely recorded, although drummer Olli Jaath cut his respective parts at Hanover's Hunting Ground Studio. Guitarist Michael Henkel handled production, whilst vocalist Sabina Classen was granted six months to lay down her respective parts. Agony of Death was provisionally named Bloodbound; its title concerns the hardships which haunt individuals within the course of their lifetime, and mirrors the toils which Holy Moses have struggled through during their years as an entity. “Schizophrenia”'s title needs no explanation, whereas “Bloodbound of the Damned” comprises a tribute to the group's fanclubs worldwide. Another track meanwhile, namely “Through Shattered Minds”, delves into the mental anguish which plagues former bassist Robert “Ozzy” Frese, whilst “Dissociative Disorder” touches upon the issue of amnesia.
A countless number of musicians guest upon Agony of Death, such as; Ferdy “Carpenter” Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell) supplying keyboards and samples upon the the album's intro and outro sections, as well as slide guitars within “Through Shattered Minds”, Ralph Santolla (part of Obituary, and formerly a member of the likes of Deicide, Death and Iced Earth) contributing lead solos to both “Dissociative Disorder” and “World In Darkness”, Obituary's Trevor Peres donating a guest solo to the number “Angels In War”, The Wolf (Darkside / Demolition) and Henning Basse (Sons of Season / Metalium) mouthing backing vocals towards “Imagination” and “Schizophrenia” respectively, Destruction mainman Schmier (additionally frontman on behalf of Headhunter) supplying backing vocals to “The Cave”, and last, but not least by any means, Karlos Medina (Agent Steel) occupying bass duties within “Imagination”.
In late July, Agony of Death's cover artwork was revealed. Later that July, an eight minute album preview was available via the group's official MySpace page. Mid September saw the emergence of a widget, followed by the streaming of “World In Darkness” via the group's MySpace page days later. Three differing versions of Agony of Death will be released; a jewel case version, a digipack version which sports intro and outro sections between compositions, and bonus tracks (namely “Delusional Denial” and “Through Shattered Minds”), and a double vinyl edition.
Ever since the group's 1980 formation, Holy Moses has placed a distinctly unique stamp upon the eternally fiery Thrash Metal scene. In support of Agony of Death, vocalist Sabina Classen has dug deep. Wildly aggressive, Agony of Death's passionate tunes rival any fellow material the group has cut to date. Whilst 2005's Strength. Power. Will. Passion displayed Holy Moses' potential heaviness, Agony of Death validates the group's importance within 2008's overpopulated music scene.
Classen and company immediately elevate Agony of Death towards loftier heights in the form of unadulterated Thrash composition “Imagination”. Remarkably pacy, “Imagination” particularly recalls Vengeance Rising's 1992 album Released Upon the Earth. Holy Moses blazes through “Alienation”, and during its conclusion, a brief respite surfaces. Magnificent lead work inaugurates “World In Darkness”, which subsequently transpires into yet another wholesale assault. Irrelevant of how schizophrenically inclined the number possibly is, “World In Darkness” comprises one of Agony of Death's undisputed highlights. In truth, immense exhaustion overwhelms the listener by the time that “World In Darkness” conclusion arrives. Within the guise of a mere three track EP, Holy Moses may have achieved perfection. Agony of Death never climbs past the plateau achieved via these three masterpieces, although the album profusely toils in attempting to do so.
Hearkening back towards Holy Moses' cult favourite full lengths The New Machine of Leichtenstein (1989) and Finished With the Dogs (1987), the overtly heavy “Dissociative Disorder”, as well as blistering cut “The Retreat”, form additional highlights. Agony of Death begins to discover a fresh groove during its swansong moments however, hinting as to what future material may musically boast. Grouping together each of Holy Moses' exceptional qualities, “Through Shattered Minds / Agony of Death” is an expertly performed epic composition, and spans eight minutes and sixteen seconds in length. Pacy for quite some time, “Through Shattered Minds” subsequently bursts into a headbanging groove (replete with both fist pumping gang vocals, and demonic voices). Following that, the track settles into synth driven outro “Agony of Death”. Albeit not the record's most impressive tune, “Through Shattered Minds / Agony of Death” proves by far the most intriguing. Consequently, one opts in favour of successive listening.
Holy Moses' albums are hit and miss affairs, and very much so. Never alienating fanatics, many nonetheless lack the passion exhibited by records such as the aforementioned. As an immediate result, Holy Moses never successfully made the impression which numerous individuals had envisioned. The group's most accomplished full length to date, Agony of Death could possibly form Holy Moses' initial step towards legendary status within the confines of Heavy Metal, transcending the Thrash genre even. For each and every genuine Metal admirer, Agony of Death is an essential purchase.