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Agate - "Black Soul" (CD)

Agate - "Black Soul" CD cover image

"Black Soul" track listing:

1. Gone
2. Loosing my faith
3. Angel of mercy
4. Is it right
5. Time
6. Black soul

Reviewed by on March 30, 2010

"Mainly, I wish the band had applied a little more grit and a lot less polish to the songs."

On "Black Soul," Agate may have been aiming to mix musical genres like "classic folk and Oriental music, prog, gothic, hard rock and metal" (to quote their press materials). What they've managed to do is come up with a pop-polished prog-rock album that sounds like it could've come directly from about 1985.

Singer/keyboardist Mira Birkelid and bassist/singer Rune Torgerson initially formed this Norwegian band as a pop-rock outfit, and they've brought that melodic sense to the album, which is a good thing — occasionally too much of one. Birkelid's keyboards, though often sounding a bit dated, are expertly played, and guitarist Stig Seines has some superb moments sprinkled throughout the album.

The disc starts with Birkelid's keyboards and Seines' guitar slowly fading in on "Gone." That's when the song starts to sound particularly '80s, with Birkelid's keyboards reminding me a bit of "Rainbow In The Dark." I have to say, though, that her vocals are definitely a highlight of the disc.

For me, the album's high point comes with "Angel of Mercy," which begins with accordion sounds and features Torgersen and Birkelid sharing lead vocal duties over quiet piano before heading into heavy territory.

Unfortunately, many of the tracks seem to fall into a formula, with heavy sections that give way to quiet, often piano-driven solo vocal sections ("Loosing My Faith" stands out as an example). That said, there are definitely moments, like Seines' ripping solo on "Black Soul," which will get you rocking — but they are all too rare.

I'm a bit torn on the album. There was nothing that I absolutely hated, though the glossy '80s keyboard sound occasionally grated. On the other hand, there were few moments that absolutely demanded my attention — and when most of the songs cross the seven-minute mark, that can prove problematic. Mainly, I wish the band had applied a little more grit and a lot less polish to the songs. Agate's "Black Soul" is proficiently played, with a pop sheen that unfortunately tends to drain a lot of the soul from the songs.

Highs: "Gone" and "Angel of mercy;" guitar solo on "Black soul"

Lows: Songs like "Loosing my faith" rely overly much on a formulaic approach.

Bottom line: An OK prog-rock album, but one that relies too much on dated pop sounds.

Rated 2 out of 5 skulls
2 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)