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 songs 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 sum 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.