Destrier - The Reykjavik Grapevine

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Agent Fresco

Destrier

Mostly hints at what could have been, or for the optimists: at better things to come.


Published October 17, 2015

There are some high-quality moments on ‘Destrier’—the play with harmonics (and is that a Tartini tone I hear?) for the intro/outro; or from the 2:30 mark onward on “Dark Water,” for instance. The latter example highlights the technical skill on the part of the keyboardist (as well as in the vocals—Arnór Dan Arnarson has knack for falsetto), features a clever change in rhythm and a build-up to a full, wide sound that, if anything, is cut off too soon. It’s the kind of post-hardcore, prog-adjacent variation-via-bridge that suits Agent Fresco.

In its weakest moments, ‘Destrier’ flirts with a particularly egregious kind of musical melodrama. You know: the kind most often abused in gothic-metal, that relies heavily on operatic, reverb-generated pathos and decidedly declarative compositional quality (a kind of hammering conflated with intensity)—along with weakly imagistic lyrical stylings as a means to not so much elicit as extort an emotional response. Thankfully, Agent Fresco are too smart to fall into this trap for the most part; they understand that while accessibility and emotional resonance are key, one doesn’t always have to make it easy, or force it down our throats.

Agent Fresco by Matthew Eisman
Photo by Matthew Eisman

‘Destrier’ perhaps suffers from problematic pacing. Its length isn’t particularly extravagant, but some interesting ideas are dropped within a matter of seconds, while tamer, more expected compositions are given significantly more space. This, combined with such an oddly limited sound palette (for a band that seems at least in theory to want to flex their technical skill in the realm of maximalism), leads to a certain staleness as the album draws to a close.

The combined musical lineage of all the influences on this album’s sound, and the precedent for experimentation in those scenes, may lead you to hope (as I did) for the album to go much further than it does. And though there is something to be said for a band that gives you just enough to leave you wanting more, ‘Destrier’ is far more a tease of the band’s full potential (spoiler alert: they’ve got a lot) than a realisation.

More on Agent Fresco:

Agent Fresco singer Arnór Dan by Anna DomnickPoised For Domination, Agent Fresco Celebrate ‘Destrier’
Agent Fresco singer Arnór Dan’s last three years involved a kind of Tartini tone, when the tune of his ordinary life was upset in 2012 by a violent assault. He walked away from it with a broken eye socket, and though it healed, the emotional scars still haunt him.

IMG_20151001_222235Agent Fresco’s Release Show: Rigid, Yet Fresh Fresh!
The band immediately throws itself into the performance. Arnór Dan’s singing sounds crisper than on the album, the lows and highs coming in more organically, without sacrificing any of the emotion. Hrafnkell Örn’s drumming, supplemented by the second skinsman, keeps everyone on the mark. Þórarinn’s guitar work looks effortless as he mixes incredulous timing with simple riffs—so effortless that the second guitarist’s stage presence easily steals his thunder. However, he is in turn outdone by Vignir ragdolling his bass around, pulling off moves that would put a young Mick Jagger to shame.

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