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Artificial Agent's "Death Ray" Puts a Modern Spin on '80s Sleaze Rock

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I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

Artificial Agent "Death Ray" album cover

Artificial Agent "Death Ray" album cover

Artificial Agent—"Death Ray"

Country: USA

Genre: Hard Rock/Metal

Tracks: 10

Run Time: 32:05

Artificial Agent is a four-piece hard rock band from Detroit who've been kickin' around the Midwestern circuit since 2010, making a name for themselves via opening slots for a wide range of acts including Alice Cooper, Ace Frehley, Warrant, and Vince Neil. The quartet's fourth studio album, Death Ray, was released independently in early 2020.

According to their social media, the band describes their "core genre" as "'80s hair metal," with their main influences being KISS, Motley Crue, and Queens of the Stone Age. The KISS comparison seems particularly fitting, since Artificial Agent hails from the town that Messrs. Stanley and Simmons christened "Detroit Rock City" so many years ago!

However, after a few spins of Death Ray, it seems to me that Artificial Agent is intent on bridging the gap between classic, '80s-style sleaze and modern hard rock/metal. Their sound is melodic enough to suck in jaded old-schoolers, but it also has a healthy dose of 21st century crunch that'll catch the ears of the younger crowd. When I listened to Death Ray's ten tracks on YouTube, some of the other artists that came up in the "recommended" sidebar included Five Finger Death Punch, Black Label Society, Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown, and Crazy Lixx. These guys are casting a net wide enough for everyone to come to their party!

"Eye For An Eye"

The Songs

"Eye For An Eye" kicks the album off on a nice crunchy note. The burly bass work of Brad Jendza provides a nice foundation for guitarist Mike Elgert and drummer Karl Crafton to build upon. Vocalist Derek Jendza (Brad's brother, I presume?) has a gritty, almost punk style snarl that sets him apart from the hordes of smooth-voiced pretty boys that tend to overpopulate the melodic rock genre. So far, so good.

"Who's Got the Bat Now?" has a little too much of that nu-metal "jump, jump" feel for my taste, but "Waiting To Die" brings things back into my wheelhouse with some seriously groovy, down-n-dirty chug. "The Devil Made Me Do It" is a bouncy, catchy anthem that make a great single, I could definitely see it fitting in just fine among the modern rock acts on my local FM station.

"Love Or Lie" feels like a laboratory experiment to combine the musical DNA of early 2000s aggro-rock with sugary Def Leppard style choruses; it's a weird mix to be sure, but it works (mostly). "Finish Yourself Off" and "We All Need Heroes" are straight-ahead raunchy rockers and the deceptively funky bass groove that kicks off "Always A Victim" leads into some unexpectedly pile-drivin' nu-metal slam. The bottom-heavy "Strung Out" is another mix of crunchy music with a distorted-but-melodic chorus (and also some nice cowbell work!). The album comes to a close with the high-octane "Do You Love Me or What?", which ends the proceedings in suitably obnoxious, punishing fashion.

"Waiting To Die"

Summing It Up

Unlike a lot of "retro" hard rock acts that are content to simply re-hash the sound of bands that were hot 30 years ago, Artificial Agent is proudly carrying the glam-slam-metal-jam sound into the 21st century. It doesn't matter if you're an aging hair metal banger like me, a late '90s Spooky Kid, or a 21st century digital rocker, Death Ray is bound to have a little something for everybody contained within its grooves.

If the the music video for "Eye For An Eye" (see above) is anything to go by, Artificial Agent is also a highly visual band, so I'd imagine that they're even more effective in a live setting. Unfortunately, the current Coronavirus situation has put a halt to all live musical performances for the time being... hopefully that black cloud will lift sometime soon so bands like this can get back to doing what they do best -- returning to the stage and bringing the rock n' roll to the people!

If the songs from Death Ray contained in this article sound like your kinda meat, Artificial Agent also has three previous releases to check out, and you can learn more about them at their official Facebook page or their Instagram.

Artificial Agent Discography:

Love Won't Strangle Me - 2011

Brain Grenade EP - 2014

Programmed to Destroy - 2017

Death Ray - 2020

© 2020 Keith Abt