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Brazilian trio Nervosa exploded into the mainstream metal consciousness with its self-distributed "2012" demo/EP, of which the YouTube success of the single 'Masked Betrayer' was instrumental in the band signing with Austrian label Napalm Records. The cooperation gave birth to the trio's highly publicized debut “Victim Of Yourself”. The band’s 2014 debut was the transitional effort between its early Fernanda Terra era, who contributed to the song arrangements for that session. “Agony” is the first album to feature input from drummer Pitchu Ferraz. Nervosa has been able to cement its position as one of the elite practitioners of the retro-thrash metal movement, but has yet to show any distinct character of its own.

“Agony” is not so much an evolution from as it is a continuation of “Victim Of Yourself”. All songs are cut largely from the same cloth as the debut, only Lira’s vocals sound much deeper and serpentine. ‘Deception’ has semi-growled backing vocals by Prika Amaral. Amaral has improved as a lead guitarist as song as ‘Failed System’ attest to. ‘Surrounded By Serpents’ is the most ambitious track of the album, in itself a lone highlight in a morass of similar sounding cuts. ‘CyberWar’ is a re-tread of ‘Masked Betrayer’ using a set of nearly identical riffs, vocal cadences and drumming patterns. ‘Hypocrisy’ starts out in a more death metal direction, but quickly regresses to typical Nervosa fodder. “Agony” conclusively proves that Fernanda Terra, who co-wrote the "Victim Of Yourself" album but was ousted prior to the studio recordings, was the superior drummer. Ferraz’ playing is low on captivating fills, rolls and interesting footwork.

Drawing inspiration primarily from the classic Bay Area and Teutonic thrash metal institutions Nervosa is in no rush to carve out an identity of its own. Only on the limited edition bonus track ‘Wayfarer’ do the girls show variation in their songcraft. Fernanda Lira is not only a commendable singer, but her plucking Steve Harris (Iron Maiden) styled bass playing is often hardly given space to breath due to Amaral’s concrete riffing. Pitchu Ferraz is of the Bill Andrews (ex-Death, Massacre) school of drumming – and while she potentially has more tricks up her sleeve, they are not allowed to flourish here. Nervosa could produce some incredibly intense music if Lira and Ferraz were allowed more muscle in the compositions. “Agony” is testament to Amaral’s laser-vision of thrash metal, but none of its translates in memorable songs. The album is visceral, concrete, and devastating upon initial discovery, but “Victim Of Yourself” had more substance.

Amaral’s insistence on a single guitar setup is what limits the trio’s songwriting. Unlike Krisiun, Nervosa is adamant in writing guitar lines that can be recreated in the live environment. If there’s one thing that Nervosa would benefit from, it would be a second guitarist, either in the studio or live. While each member has grown in leaps and bounds since “Victim Of Yourself” there’s no notable evolution to be found on “Agony”. Each of the tracks is leaner, more streamlined and tightly composed in comparison to the debut album, on which tracks tended to wander. Alas, Nervosa has made no significant progress as songwriters, which is a pity. “Agony” is more of the same, but not necessarily better despite the improved production values and performances.

The runaway success from “Victim Of Yourself” allowed the girls some considerable industry leverage for their second record. For this session Nervosa was allowed to record outside of its native Brazil, and they opted to cut the record in America. The drums were recorded at The Foundation Studio in Ashland, Oregon with Sylvia Massy producing. Vocals, lead/rhythm guitar and bass guitar were recorded at Norcal Studios in Davis, California with 2 time Grammy nominated engineer Brendan Duffey producing. The artwork was rendered by British graphic designer Godmachine. An Ed Repka canvas seems inevitable for the girls' third effort.

In all “Agony” remains on the same creative plateau as “Victim Of Yourself”. Nervosa is content being a mere of its parts, and to not disturb the waters too much. At some point they want to start carving out their own sound. It remains to be seen how long they can keep churning out similar sounding albums. Those hoping to see Nervosa make a similar growth as Sepultura did on its early albums will be left on their hunger. Despite the lack of any significant progress “Agony” stands head and shoulders above the great majority of the retro thrash metal revival movement. Nervosa doesn’t profess to be anything that it’s not, and that is its biggest strength.

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The dire lack of care and effort that first surfaced on the “Once Upon the Cross” and “Serpents Of the Light” duo became complete inertia on “Insineratehymn”, the first of two records widely considered blemishes on the band’s spotty output. In order to get out of the Roadrunner Records contract Tampa, Florida bashers Deicide wrote and recorded two albums in quick succession. The first of these two was “Insineratehymn”, a mere husk of the derivative proficiency that made the band famous. By the late 1990s a multitude of death metal bands across North America and Europe were pushing the genre towards a heavier, technical direction - Deicide wasn’t one of them.

Brief glimmers of past glories remain, yet “Insineratehymn” breaks Deicide’s none too complex songwriting formula down to its basic components. On the whole the record is much slower and groovier than any of Deicide’s prior records. Dissatisfaction with Roadrunner Records added to the mounting tensions in the ranks further eroding the soured relations between Benton and the Hoffman brothers. Much like fellow Tampa genre act Obituary, another band that never truly delivered on its initial promise, Deicide was at the end of its creative rope at the dawn of the millennium. Deicide would never formally split but its apathy towards its output would eventually lead to one of the most notorious (and much publicized) band fractures in recent memory.

The tracks consist of lethargic, largely interchangeable riffing with random, meandering and obligatory sounding solos, crude uninteresting drumming and daft vocals. Glen Benton’s performance is admittedly powerful, and a lot better than an sorry showing like this probably deserves. The Hoffman brothers, usually no slouches in the lead department, barely get by. The soloing does what it is supposed to do, but possess none of the zest and color of the band’s earlier work. ‘Standing in the Flames’, ‘Remnant Of A Hopeless Path’, ‘Worst Enemy’, and ‘Refusal Of Penance’ have decent solos but they can’t hold a candle to the early lead work of the brothers. ‘Standing In the Flames’ forms the blueprint for the last Hoffman album “Scars Of the Crucifix” albeit in a much slower form. Only ‘Biblebasher’ remains a regular live staple, the remainder of the record is, understandably, ignored. The songs on the album aren’t bad in and of themselves given the circumstances wherein they were conceived. They are mere shells of what could have been better, more engrossing songs had the band been giving the opportunity and time to let them gestate and develop the ideas and motifs properly. “Insineratehymn” has the makings of a crude pre-production demo where the structures still needed to be fleshed out in a more meaningful way.

At this point Benton hadn’t yet completely given up, and as such the record isn’t entirely without merit as far as lyrics is concerned. The album title is the most intelligent and creative aspect of the record, as it is a phonetic approximation of “incinerate him”. ‘Bible Basher’ is a far from subtle protest against the Christian minister and the greater subject of organized religion. Sadly Glen Benton still isn’t making any compelling arguments to drive any of his increasingly aggressive rhetoric forward. The Genesis hit single ‘Jesus He Knows Me’ in fact made a stronger case against organized religion and its adherents within a single song than Deicide ever managed in its entire career. ‘Forever Hate You’ is a stylistic precursor to the second post-Hoffman album “Till Death Do Us Part”. ‘Halls Of Warship’ is more than just clever wordplay, and chronicles Christianity’s bloody history of armed global conquest. Likewise is ‘Apocalyptic Fear’ more of an observation on religious fundamentalism than an indictment of Christianity in particular. ‘The Gift That Keeps On Giving’ featured on the hit TV series “The Sopranos” helping boost the band’s profile considerably.

“Insineratehymn”, a record significantly marred by a troublesome conception, was further dealt a second considerable blow by having a troubled recording session that saw the band, much to its chagrin, working with two different producers. The band once again convened at Morrisound Studio to track the rhythm guitars and drums under the aegis of long-time producer Jim Morris. Due to circumstances beyond its control the vocal production along with the recordings for the lead – and bass guitar tracks were done by a different producer. Given the problematic circumstances wherein it was recorded and produced it is nothing short of a miracle that “Insineratehymn” ended up sounding as tolerable as it did.

Cognizant of having been forced into delivering an incomplete and unfinished product no logo or title can be found on the cover artwork. Said cover artwork remains one of Deicide’s better and more enigmatic pieces. The rotational 666 numeric design was rendered by Glenn Orenstein was far more subtle than the artwork of the prior records. It is infinitely more evil and surprisingly profound on an abstract and theoretical level considering Benton’s penchant for rather one-dimensional Satanic rhetoric.