Except Virus is significantly better than slightly above-average progressive rock.
The Agent That Shapes The Desert is a very cohesive album. The instruments are all extremely bright, noticeable, and really pull you in. There's a degree of production here that's unprecedented in this kind of music, and it captures the atmosphere that the music is trying to convey perfectly, making it extremely memorable. Songs like "Chromium Sun" open with a galloping (no not triplets) bassline and keep the tritones and major-sevenths flowing. Others like "Continental Drift" manage this speed over slower chord progressions, creating a slow-moving, geologic feel to the music. The deep bassy distortion at the beginning of the latent track "Dead Cities Of Syria" is addicting and droning, and the song builds nicely on that strong foundation. All the songs are very well-crafted, and it really conveys the precambrian-mesopotamian theme of the album well.
Much to my dismay they had to ruin the fun and add in some of the more boring vocals I've heard this year to each and every track. They almost have an operatic-symphonic quality to them similar to other progressive rock or metal bands, and I always tend to find this style hit or miss. Sure sometimes it's fitting and you can hear the lyrics clearly, but the sheer enunciation of the vocals really kills the atmosphere. Had this been an instrumental avant-garde or even math rock album it probably would've been a bit more tolerable. There are some instances where I feel they work really well though - "Parched Rapids" comes to mind first. The song's innate dissonance and the good use of rests resonates with Czarl's off-kelter vocal approach.
If you're looking for well-written avant-garde rock with several degrees of jazz, metal, and progressive music in its sound, I wouldn't put it past The Agent That Shapes The Desert for it to be exactly what you're looking for.
7.5 out of 10
|1.||The Agent That Shapes The Desert|
|4.||Red Desert Sand|
|5.||Intermission: Furnace Creek|
|6.||Dead Cities Of Syria|
|7.||Where The Flame Resides|
|9.||Call Of The Tuskers|