Agony Column

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God, Guns and Guts

Agony Column - God, Guns and Guts ©1989 Big Chief
1. God, Guns and Guts
2. Snakebite
3. 4 x 4
4. Vicious Pack of Lies
5. Fiendish Plots and Diabolical Minds
6. 66 Six Guns for Satan
7. Cars, Sex and Violence
8. Walk the Night
9. Scarred for Life
10. Blackjack
11. Dead by Dawn
12. Bag o' Bones

Agony Column never exactly set the world on fire with their brand of "hellbilly" metal that rode in on the coattails of thrash and speed metal in the late 80s. This Austin based band was actually a bit better than many of the peripheral bands of the era, though not quite noteworthy enough to get a whole lot of notice. The band's debut, God, Guns and Guts is a moderately enjoyable slab of metal that has its strong moments, though the band's reliance on a basic songwriting formula keeps it from being a contender for 1989's "Album of the Year".

The band played up its southern roots, adopting such nicknames as "Devil Chicken" and "Bat Lord", though one would assume these guys had a better sense of humor about stage monikers than some of the Norwegian black metal bands that would emerge in the coming years. Of course, this is the only reference to Norwegian black metal in this entire review and let's face it, it's superfluous at best. Anyhow, Agony Column played a bit slower than some of their thrash metal counterparts, sticking to more chugging riffs and a touch of a groove. It should be noted they do not sound like any of the groove oriented bands that also emerged in the 90s. Vocalist Richie "Devil Chicken" Turner was truly far from gifted, yet he injects quite a bit of character into his thin, mildly growly delivery. The album's best track, "Cars, Sex and Violence", caught my ear back in 1989 on a metal radio show for its leftfield delivery. Another interesting moment is the blend of southern rock and blues on "Blackjack".

God, Guns and Guts may not have really caught the attention of most metal fans upon its release, but there is something endearing about it regardless of its shortcomings. If you fancy yourself any sort of 80s metal collector, this is worth tracking down at some point.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2010

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Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles

Agony Column - Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles ©1991 Metal Blade
1. Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles
2. Angel of Def
3. Lord Almighty
4. Ultraviolent Rays
5. Bayou Road
6. No Time To Kill
7. Crime and Punishment
8. Big Two Hearted Sammy
9. Hellbilly Blues
10. Rain Comes Down
11. Suppertime
12. Hole to Hell
13. Mississippi Queen

The second full length release from the Texan southern fried thrash metal band finds Agony Column with improved production but lacking somewhat in the songwriting department. But only to a slight degree. The band's debut, as occasionally ugly and cartoonish as it came across in portions, was a fairly amusing take on thrash metal with outside influences. Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles incorporates the southern boogie and drawl a bit more at times. Those particular songs are where the band shines a bit more brightly, while their attempts at more standard songwriting are not particularly memorable.

Of note, tracks where the band loosens up and lets things swing a little are the ones worth checking out: "Suppertime" and "Big Two Hearted Sammy" come to mind. Or, when the band just finds an upbeat, driving tempo and let vocalist Richie "Devil Chicken" Turner actually sing a little as he does on "Rain Comes Down", they also manage to grab one's ears. In fact, the album's better songs are generally better than many of their contemporaries at the time, particularly the ones who were witnessing thrash and speed metal's demise and had absolutely no idea what to do with themselves. No doubt Agony Column, who probably were still looking for their second nickel to rub together from album sales, didn't particularly care about where the style of music was heading and drank enough cheap corn liquor to get through practice.

So while the band's debut has a bit more going for it, Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles is still a moderately interesting album from a band that did manage to stand apart from the crowd. I wouldn't suggest plunking down thirty dollars for an out of print copy of the CD, but it's worth a listen if you can find it for a decent bargain. Believe me, it ages better than most of the thrash metal from the early 90s.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/2010

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