Iceland (the country) is rich in musical talent, apparently it’s down to the landscape, and Agent Frescocertainly do the island justice with their unique blend of beautiful piano melodies, crunchy guitars and atmospherically dark pop; think Depeche Mode meets Trent Reznor and Chopin and you’re vaguely heading in the right direction.
Lead off track ‘Let Them See Us’ begins with the construction of a wall of sound that builds into a brooding piano based lament with beautiful orchestration, providing a moment of calm before their signature guitar sound stomps all over the rolling piano melody on ‘Dark Water’. Lead Vocalist Arnor possesses a quite disarming vocal delivery, similar in style to Serj Tankian, though an octave or two higher. His vocal technique is equally well suited to the deep dark pop of tracks like ‘Pyro’ and the hookier ‘Wait For Me’, as to the soaring vocal lines of numbers like ‘Howls’, which twists and turns around a scattergun riff.
There are actually twists and turns a plenty, with the title track working an industrial guitar sound into the mix, while ‘Angst’ is a relentless ear bashing; they seem to enjoying pummelling a riff into submission, as on the climax of the atmospheric ‘Autumn Red’. However, it is second single ‘See Hell’ which captures not only the spirit of the album but also the dynamic of Agent Fresco’s complex sound. It features an urgent riff coupled with a sinister sounding synthesizer and tackles the singer’s self destructive struggle with anger and anxiety on lines like “We open up to see hell/Keep my teeth so deep into the lips where fury cries”.
‘Let the Curtain Fall’ and ‘Bemoan’ both make full use of the piano, with the former invoking a sense of torture. Their more atmospheric leaning is also evident on ‘Death Rattle’, prior to the uplifting closer ‘Mono no Aware’ with its cymbal crashes and lilting piano that die in the noisy deconstruction of the climax, which brings us neatly back to the wall of sound that opened proceedings.
The Icelandic four piece have produced an engaging work of art that will hit you with its power, energy and emotion, and although ‘Destrier’ is by no means an easy listen, it is darkly entertaining, and well worth investing a bit of time in. Moreover, if previous performances at festivals like Roskilde are anything to go by, UK audiences can look forward to some monstrous performances come November.
‘Destrier’ by Agent Fresco is released on August 7th on Long Branch Records/SPV.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)