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Sunday Old School: Agent Steel

We’ve looked at plenty of thrash metal bands over the nearly 200 Sunday Old School columns written so far, but perhaps one are we’ve neglected would be the sub-genre’s predecessor, speed metal. Today, we’ll rectify this with a look at one of the top dogs in the speed metal field, Agent Steel. Agent Steel were formed in 1984 after vocalist John Camps (AKA, John Cyriis) left the band, Abattoir and teamed up with drummer, Chuck Profus. The original Agent Steel lineup was completed with the addition of bass player, George Robb and guitarists Mark Marshall and Bill Simmons. The quintet soon entered the studio to record their first demo, "144,000 Gone," which was received favourably in the local California metal scene, enough so that it found some radio play and earned the band a supporting slot for Slayer as their very first show and helped them receive a record deal with Combat, who had also recently signed Megadeth. Before they could record their first album however, they experienced problems with their guitarists and a short revolving door situation evolved, before they finally settled on Kurt Colfelt and Cyriis’ former Abattoir bandmate, Juan Garcia and set about recording their first full length, which was released in the summer of 1985 under the title, "Skeptics Apocalypse." The record was very well received and is now considered a true classic in the speed metal genre.

Despite the acclaim, Colfelt quit the band soon afterwards when relations soured between him and Cyriis and formed a new band called, Holy Terror. His position was filled by Bernie Versailles who made his recording debut with the band on the "Mad Locust Rising" EP, which was notable for its cover of the Judas Priest song, "The Ripper." Following the release of the EP, the group had to find another new member when George Robb quit and was replaced by bassist, Michael Zaputil. With a new bassist on board, the band got to work on their sophomore full length, though the album’s recording was interrupted for a while by a European tour with countrymen, Anthrax and Overkill, footage of which was later released as part of the home video, "US Speed Metal Attack."

Eventually, the band finished their new album, "Unstoppable Force," which was released in 1987, though the group was to soon splinter, when Cyriis and Profus decided to relocate the band to Tampa, Florida, while the other members decided to stay in Los Angeles. The duo in Tampa decided to recruit three new members for a European tour, which included future Testament and Obituary guitarist, James Murphy. The tour went down a treat and produced another home video, recorded live at London’s, Hammersmith Odeon at a show which also featured Nuclear Assault and Onslaught. Although the tour was a success, Cyriis decided to disband Agent Steel shortly after returning home, citing disillusionment with industry politics.

In 1999, Agent Steel was relaunched by Juan Garcia, after his previous bands, Evildead and Terror, had dissolved. Joining him in the reboot was fellow Agent Steel almuni Chuck Profus and Bernie Versailles, along with his former Evildead bandmate, Karlos Medina and new vocalist, Bruce Hall. This new incarnation recorded their first album together, "Omega Conspiracy" later that year, but it would turn out to be the last Agent Steel record to date to feature Chuck Profus, who suffered a hand injury soon after its release and ultimately decided to leave the group, with his place being taken by Rigo Amezcua, formerly of Terror. The quintet released another album, "Order of the Illuminati," in 2003, becoming the first Agent Steel album not to feature any of the founding members, along with a mini CD, "Earth Under Lucifer," to promote their forthcoming European tours, which included a set at the Dynamo festival, which itself would later be released as a live DVD. Two years later, Agent Steel released their most recent album, "Alienigma," through Mascot Records and embarked on a tour to promote the record, performing at such festivals as Graspop Metal Meeting.

In 2010, after eleven years with the band, Bruce Hall announced that he had decided to quit the group, having become tired of the demands to perform the early material and thus felt unfulfilled in the band. Ten days later, Agent Steel announced that John Cyriis had returned to the fold to front the band once more. He marked his return to the group with two performances in Tokyo, Japan at the Thrash Domination event, which also included Exodus and Nevermore amongst others. Despite the return of Cyriis, Agent Steel has been relatively quiet in recent years and although still active, all of the members with the exception of Cyriis, have formed a new band named, Masters of Metal, who released their first EP in April of this year. Where the future of Agent Steel lies remains to be seen, but no-one can doubt the sheer quality they possess and their place in the history of speed metal.

Agent Steel - "Guilty As Charged/Taken By Force"

Agent Steel - "Never Surrender/Let It Be Done"

Agent Steel - "Children of the Sun"

Agent Steel - "It's Not What You Think"

Agent Steel - "Ten Fists Of Nations"

Agent Steel - "Wash This Planet Clean"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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