Agency Panic is an Irish rock band who, over the past year, have been establishing themselves as one of the more exciting and innovative acts in the progressive metal scene. They seem to prefer maintaining a low profile, however, as the few photos they have on their social media accounts are dark, with their faces in shadow, and I know them only by their first names: J.D.K. on vocals, Tubs on guitars, Lee on bass, and Revsy on drums. My sense is that they want their music to speak for itself, rather than the focus be on them personally.
In July 2018, they released their monumental debut single “Panic” (which I reviewed) as the first installment from what they’re calling their ‘drip feed’ EP, which is being released one song at a time. The incredibly intense song set a very high bar for the band, with face-melting riffs, explosive percussion and fierce, chill-inducing vocals. I loved it so much it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2018 list.
They followed up that October with their second single “Lie”, a darkly beautiful banger featuring more of their signature scorching riffs and thunderous percussion. Now they’ve returned with their third installment “The Middle“, which dropped June 14. It’s another winning single, serving to further bolster Agency Panic’s flawless resume for putting out stellar progressive metal songs that challenge the listener. Unlike a typical song with a catchy melody that quickly bores into our brain, progressive metal (or any progressive form of other music genres for that matter) often requires a closer and/or repeated listens to fully absorb and appreciate the nuance of the unusual melodies, song structures, lyrics and instrumentals, all of which “The Middle” has in spades.
In keeping with their penchant for maintaining a bit of mystery, the poetic lyrics are somewhat abstract and open to interpretation. When I asked J.D.K. of the meaning of the song, all he would tell me is that “it all took place in the middle of Amsterdam.” The song opens with a twangy electric guitar riff and a whisper of ominous synth, then a somber drumbeat kicks in as J.D.K. speaks in a rather unsettling echoed voice about what seems to be a dream or possible acid trip:
Blinding blinding flicker
Sparks of light
Deceptively distort, shadows crawl to the sirens song
As it all dissolves the show has just begun.
Through to black
Beyond the veil
The oceans of chaos were about to sail…
The guitar suddenly explodes into gnarly riffs of shredded distortion as deep bass and heavier percussion are added, and J.D.K.’s vocals turn more impassioned as he sings:
Hooked direct to the mainline.
Re con struct self
Time has melted design
Illusion slowly reveal
Spilling right into the dream…
In the loop again
In the loop again
In the loop again
By the third verse, everything ramps up to near-frenzy, with screaming guitars and speaker-blowing drums as he fervently wails the lyrics that seem to speak of being reborn into a new reality:
Erasing what you think is real
Stripped down to bone to which you’ll find
One mind’s eye
Seductively it reels us in
Hooks through the skin
Past present future on a plain
Walking through the void
Entrance to the other side
Take take fear…
Step from the darkness into the light
As movement slowed and we bent time
The song closes with a fadeout of reverb, leaving me awestruck by its magnificence. Agency Panic are proving themselves to be phenomenal songwriters and musicians worthy of notice, and I’m thrilled to be following them on their musical journey as they continue to release more songs.