If there’s one thing I enjoy about writing about music is the community that comes with it. Over the past year, I’ve seen, interacted with, and befriended many amazing music bloggers (many whom are far better writers than I am). I cannot thank those guys enough for the information and opinions they deliver on a regular basis. Only a few days ago, I was reading through one of my favorite sites Man of Much Metal, where I stumbled upon a new band from Iceland called Agent Fresco. After such unwavering praise, I was convinced; I needed to learn more about this band with a unique name. Upon further research, I found out that Agent Fresco is releasing their upcoming album “Destrier” this Friday, and can be previewed in its entirety. Needless to say I was amped. The search for great music is never-ending, and it is our job as bloggers to share our discoveries with the world.
My first listen into “Destrier,” I already understood the hype. It’s a modest blend of progressive rock, metal, pop, ambient rock, and alternative rock, an amazing diversity of sound. Reminiscent of bands like Leprous and Caligula’s Horse, the prominence of deep, bass tones is the album’s signature. Vignir Rafn Hilmarsson on the bass guitar and Þórarinn Guðnason on the lead guitar have mastered the art of texturing, adding layer upon layer of sound without forcing the album into sounding too busy. While some songs utilize the deep tones to highlight softer sections (“Let Them See Us,” “Bermoan”), they aren’t afraid of chugging some heavy riffs either (“Destrier,” “Angst”). With a wide range of influences, each song’s instrumentation sounds like a different band.
If I were to describe “Destrier” in one word, it would be “delicacy.” Everything about this album has the gentlest of intensions (well, except for the song “Angst.” I think the song title speaks for itself). With the dominant presence of keyboard and piano, each song gently flows into the next. Whole intros and outros rely on Þórarinn (being the band’s pianist as well), especially in the final two songs “Death Rattle” and “Mono No Aware.” The ambiance allows the listener to explore the musical space, jumping between every sweeping crescendo, every rise and fall. It’s an ode to their homeland, evoking images of its beautiful glaciers and geysers to the listener. With classical influences, I love hearing the juxtaposition of the piano arrangements with the modern synthesizers. Add in the ambiance of symphonic instruments in parts of the album, what results is a sound that is undeniably “Icelandic.”
With all the serenity that accompanies the listener instrumentally, finding out that the lyrics center around a violent experience is surprising. Based on an assault the singer Arnór Dan Arnarson experienced firsthand years prior, much of the inspiration, writing, and energy exerted were based on feelings of anger, frustration, and near insanity. Even the album’s title “Destrier” is synonymous with a war horse, a vessel that has seen its share of war and pain. Following a quasi-concept of darkness, Arnór falsetto vocals lighten up the album, adding a sense of hope that is gained after one experiences the worst. The song “Pyre” is the perfect example of the airiness in his voice, a gentle roller-coaster of emotion hitting its peak in the song’s chorus. Upon hitting the play button, Arnór becomes our tour guide though a perilous, but hopeful journey.
Some standout tracks on “Destrier” include the album’s singles “Dark Water” and “See Hell.” Being the concept’s “anthem,” “See Hell” reflects on the addiction to anger Arnór felt after the violent incident he was a part of. The song’s chorus perfectly describes the personal conflict when suppressing anger:
“We open up to see hell / Keep my teeth so deep into the lips where fury cries; “I want to see hell” / I know my hands still reach for hell, should I feed them the fire?”
Meanwhile, “Dark Water” builds off the tone set in the album’s opener “Let Them See Us,” an upbeat, uplifting, alternative rock song. By far the catchiest song on the album, I love imitating (poorly) Arnór floating voice in the song’s chorus. Its music video touches upon the theme of water mentioned in the song, with the antagonist continually drowning Agent Fresco members throughout the duration of the song, whether to renew or to cease.
It would be an understatement to say Agent Fresco’s “Destrier” was a good find. It is easily one of the most surprising albums I’ve ever listened to, and one of few albums that I’ve felt emotionally connected with after one listen. I only hope you all experience this album in the same way I did. For fans of any genre of rock, metal, pop, and electronica, I highly recommend “Destrier,” which is due to be released on Friday. You can support them by checking out their website, or by following them on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Be sure to stop by here for a few preview of the album in case you’ve suffered through too much buyer’s remorse in your life.
And to M.O.M.M.: Thanks for the recommendation. I owe you one.