'Agony' is Brazillian thrash trio Nervosa's sophomore album, and these three ladies have delivered a work that is somewhat frustrating in its inconsistencies and generic mimicry, yet simultaneously exhilarating through a raw, untamed energy. It's certainly a likeable album, but with some nagging reservations. Let's get the negatives out of the way first...
Compositionally, Nervosa seem to have taken elements from thrash metal's past, and welded them together in a collage of pastiched idioms that sit within the context of some tried and tested songwriting paradigms. It's painfully unoriginal. Had this album been released in the mid to late-80s then it might've been lauded as a bona-fide thrash masterpiece; as such, in 2016, it's more about shameless imitation with the corollary of overwhelming anachronism.
Production-wise... hmmm... well, it's a just a little odd sounding. Too much of a treble bias and tinny sounding drum kit, combined with some bass-heavy sonics, seem to strip the music of mid-range tones at times. It has a kind of 'awkward' raw quality to the overall sound that takes some adjusting to, and I really can't seem to make up my mind whether or not it works. Either way, it sounds like a minimal-budget record straight out of the 80s; one that seems to have entirely eschewed modern recording techniques (which would be no bad thing if it was executed better). A raw, more primitive production can, sometimes, work in a band's favour, and become part of their overall aesthetic (look no further than Nervosa's label-mates Summoning for a prime example). Here, though, it seems to work against their thrash incisiveness and adds to Nervosa's overall anachronistic vibe.
However, with all that said, and if you can get over its anachronistic infliction, 'Agony' has such a raw, vibrant and feral energy as it rattles through a high-paced diachrony of thrash metal's heyday, that it kind of sucks you into its aesthetic with simple allure. Its simplicity and familiarity do kind of work in its favour, even if it ultimately becomes an album with limited repeat-listen value. And the performances are great throughout, despite the fact they haven't been captured all that well in the production. Also on the positive side, bassist Fernanda Lira's vocals sit somewhere between Dani Filth's onetime high-pitched screeches and Chuck Schuldiner growling on helium... which sort of works really well, as bizarre as that comparison might sound.
As I've already noted. 'Agony' is something of a frustrating album. Nervosa evidently have pure metal blood running through their veins and with enough musical talent and aptitude for crafting some infectiously raw, hard-hitting tunes. However, the "heard it all before" prominence in each of the songs undermines their potency, as does the messy production. If Nervosa can channel a degree of originality into their songwriting and hook up with the likes of Andy Sneap or Jens Bogren, then this thrash-power trio might just live up to the hype surrounding them.
Review by Mark Holmes
3rd June 2016
2) Theory of Conspiracy
4) Intolerance Means War
5) Guerra Santa
6) Failed System
8) Surrounded by Serpents
11) Devastation; 12) Wayfarer
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...if you can get over its anachronistic infliction, 'Agony' has such a raw, vibrant and feral energy as it rattles through a high-paced diachrony of thrash metal's heyday, that it kind of sucks you into its aesthetic with simple allure."