Agent Steel Biography

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Source: http://www2.msstate.edu/~teh2/agentsteel/agentsteel.html
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AGENT STEEL 'Back To Reign'

Agent Steel, known only for 2 albums, an EP, a couple of compilation tracks and two video releases (all within a 4 year period), have, thanks to their great talent, withstood the test of time and can now be recognized as one of the definitive American power metal bands. Perhaps considered too 'different' in their heyday (popular between 1985-1987), Agent Steel's main uniqueness came from singer John Cyriis' astounding voice (a Halford/Tate amalgam) and his speculatative lyrical ideas, as well as the fast, crunchy, hookladen and surprising melodic guitar work that recalled the best of the then-popular San Francisco Bay Area thrash metal scene as well as the exquisite axework of prime Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. Alas, this unique approach was probably one of the key elements that led to the downfall of the band, as Cyriis and company, ever progressing (and too heavy for the mainstream while not aggressive enough for the underground), were eventually met with an eroding fan base that was looking for more brutal sounds.

Agent Steel got their start with the compilation album Metal Massacre Volume 4, courtesy of Metal Blade Accords. Though 'Agent Steel' cannot be found in the credits, 2 songs paved the way to the formation of the band: First, the Sceptre track "Taken By Force" (later to became an Agent Steel favorite): the guitar player for Sceptre was the Sao Paulo, Brazil-born John Camps, a student of G.I.T. in California. Camps recorded a 3 song demo with Sceptre, which included the Camps penned "Taken By Force" and " 144,000 Gone . Leaving the band, Camps auditioned for the vocalist opening with the band Abbatoir, acquiring the stage name 'John Syriis' (soon changed to John Cyriis). At the time Cyriis joined Abbatoir, the group (which also had soon-to-be Agent Steel guitarist Juan Garcia in its ranks) already had a demo recorded; a Metal Massacre slot accepted, Abbatoir recut the vocal tracks on their song "Screams From The Grave" with Cyriis singing. Amazingly, the former guitarist Camps was also an amazing singer as well.

But his tenure with Abbatoir was short; after 6 months Cyriis left Abbatoir, and hooked up with drummer Chuch Profus. Cyriis and Profuse come up with the band name 'Sanctuary,' but soon scrapped this in favor of the more straightforward Agent Steel monicker (the religious implications of 'Sanctuary' unwanted by the two men) With guitarists Mark Marshall (preSavage Grace) and Sill Simmons, plus bassist George Robb, the group recorded the demo '144,000 Gone' in the Summer of 1984, and quickly gained great reviews for their Maiden-meets-thrash melodic speed metal approach.

Guitarists Marshall and Simmons were soon out (a fellow named John Gott was also in and out pretty quick) and the line-up of Cyriss, Profuse, Robb, plus new guitar recruits Juan Garcia (exAbbatoir: he played on the debut Abbatoir LP 'Vicious Attack,' but was not credited) and Kurt Colfelt ('Kiltelt' being his stage name; preHoly Terror) recorded the debut Agent Steel album 'Skeptics Apocalypse' for Combat Records (released on Roadrunner in Europe) in August of 1985. Originally meant to be a 12" EP, 'Skeptics Apocalypse' turned into a short 8 song (plus intro) LP, yet can now be considered a heavy metal masterpiece. Built upon relentless speed, hugely inspired Maidenesque guitar harmonies, and Cyriis' mesmerizing multi-octave talents, plus some of the catchiest writing in metal history, 'Skeptics Apocalypss' stood alone in 1985, Bernard Doe, the publisher of the popular 80's British metal magazine Metal Forces voted Skeptics Apocalypse as one of the top 10 albums of 1985, well above Slayer, Pantera, and Megadeth in the standings. Singer Cyriis was also voted as the 04 vocalist of 1985 by the readers of Metal Forces, only beaten by Joey Belladonna (Anthrax), Tom Araya (Slayer), and Ronnie James Dio. Behind Cyriis in the poll were Geoff Tale (Queensryche), Eric Adams (Manowar), and even Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden).

A falling out with Cyriis led to the departure of Kurt Colfelt, who soon formed his own band (now of cult status) Holy Terror. In came the gifted teenage guitarist Bernie Versye/Versailles to fill Colfelt's shoes. Skeptics Apocalypse was quickly followed up with the 12" EP 'Mad Locust Rising' that was recorded in late 1985 and relsased in early 1986 through Combat (USA, on blue vinyl; promo copies on black) and Music For Nations (Europe). In Europe the 12" contained just 3 full songs: "Mad Locust Rising!The Swarm Is Upon Us," "Let It Be Done," and an excellent cover of Judas Priest's "The Ripper." In the US, "Taken By Force" was also added as a bonus track. This EP, originally planned as a picture disc, only added to Agent Steel's popularity in Europe, particularly the G.A.S. and Benelux countries. A tour was called for!

After exchanging bass player George Robb for Michael Zaputil, Agent Steel began tracking their new album 'Unstoppable Force' at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida in March of 1986. They interrupted the recording sessions to play the Aardschok Dag Festival in Eindhoven, Holland in April 1986 with such metal bands as Laaz Rockit, Helloween, and King Diamond. Staying in Europe, Agent Steel successfully toured tram May 7 through May 18th with Overkill and Anthrax, before returning to the States to finish Unstoppable Force in June of 1986. Alas, the album's release was delayed due to complications with !he album cover artwork. so a early 1987 offering was planned.

In November 1986 major record label Capitol Records, fresh from signing Megadeth, were eager to add Agent Steel to their roster. Agent Steel showcased for the label, and an ofter was made. In a tactical error, Agent Steel's management asked Capitol for more money, which the label apparently agreed to, with the stipulation that the band wait until the New Year (and the aquisitition of new department budets). And here is where Agent Steel'", end can i.e found: Cyriis and Profus decided to relocate to Florida for various reasons, and Garcia (to form Evil Dead), Versailles, and Zaputil, frustrater' with the brilliant Cyriis' changing personality (he was said to have also been going through a very difficult time in his life as well) decided to stay behind in California, Come January 1987, the Capitol people, suspicious of the many Agent Steel line-up changes, pulled the offer. Cyriis and Profus, having relocated to Tampa, Florida (as Cyriis' once explained, to be closer to the Bermuda Triangle and all of its energies) hired guitarists James Murphy (later to be in Obituary, Testament, and many others) and Jay Weslord along with bass player Richard Bateman (exNasty Savage; he later died tragically in a car accident) to do a tour of Europe.

Unstoppable Force garnered an outstanding 91 points in Meta( Forces {Cyriis also earning a place in the top 10 singers list by the readers for 1886), as well as incredible reviews all across the rest of Europe. and Agent Steel. at that point, appeared to be headed for the big time. It's difficult not to agree, as this time the band got the production they sorely needed from Dan Johnson (Crimson Glory, Death, Whiplash, etc) as well as even better playing, the sound being heavier and more accessible at the same time, The album contained superb speed metal ("Unstoppable Force"). crushing anthems ("Rager"). an epic instrumental ("The Day At Guyana") and even a ballad or two ("Still 'searchin') first showcased the depth of Cyriis' voice. Cyriis' long time partner Profus' drumming was relentnessly pounding, lending the speed assault on the title track while adding, with Zaputil's capable bass lines. actual 'groove' into power metal monsters lil e "Indestructive" and "Nothin' Left." And not only was "The Day Of Guyana" a work of art by guitarists Garcia and Versailles. but their crushing rhythms guitars. complementing Cyriis' lungs. dominated the album, galloping with feeling on "Chosen 'Co Stay" and simply blowing away the listener on the est anthem "Never Surrender." As always. Versailles and Garcia incorporated beautiful dual leads and Euro melodies into the mix. upping the memorablitity factor another notch. Again Agent Steel came through with a masterpiece, not only one of the top albums of 1987. but in my book one of the greatest metal alburns of all time,

However. though the revamped Agent Steel gained a voracious response while touring in places like Hollaod and the German speaking countries in June of 1987, the tour with Nuclear Assault (capped with a big show at the Hammersmith Odeon that also had Onslaught as the initial opener) was the final nail in the coffin. as things were apparently never the same. A video of the Hammersmiih Odeon show was later released (in October of 1989) and showed the band to be in fine form, but the fickle audience seemed unable to comprehend the larger than life vocals of Cyriis and the fine guitar interplay of Murphy and Weslord. Reviews of the show tell of enthusiastic madness for Onslaught and Nuclear Assault, and of slight indifference to Agent Steel. The band. though displaying a new song, 'The Unexpected," knew their time was up. The kids wanted something taster. heavier. and just more brutal. But Agent Steel. always progressing, wore not going in that direction. Or at least Cyriis and Proteus were not. More inner band frustrations led Agent Steel to disband in June of 1988.

Profus and Cyriis, on their way back to California. got arrested in a Pheonix Hotel. allegedly because they were performing 'Satanic rituals.' The misunderstandings cleared up, Cyriis and Profus joined guitarist Michael Hill and his band Pontius Prophet, which released a 3 song demo tape. In the Summer of 1988 Pontius Prophet dissolved and Cyriis stated in a press release that he had retired from the music business. Profus then formed Malfeitor. a group that also included Michael Hili as well as 'Max Kobol,' which was noise other than John Cyriis/John Camps. The band planned to write an album. which sadly never surfaced. John Cyriis. slepping out from his 'Koboll' role. in the Summer of 1989 moved back to Florida and joined Tampa band Lemegeton. They are said to have recorded a demo named 'Evil Against Evil.' Cyriis, using the Kobol name once again. briefly appeared in the Summer of 1990 with theiNew York band Black Reign, A 3 song demo was offered, and was described as Agent Steel type power meta(. Since ]990. no word on Cyriis' status.

As for the other Agent Steel members. Garcia played on the 1st Abbatoir LP 'Vicious Attack' (Abbatoir released another Lp 'The Only Sate Place' before breaking up) and. after leaving Agent Steel, formed the thrash band Evil Dead with his friends from the then-defunct Abbatoir. Evil Dead. signing to Sleamhammer/sPV, released an EP, 2 studio albums, and a live album before metarnorphoeizing into Garcia's current band Terror. Kurt Kilfelt/Coltell formed Holy Terror. an excellent power-speed-melodio thrash metal band with a good singer (who had an almost hardcore-ish style at times) Two albums were released through Music For Nations; the first album was reissued in the States in a remixed form. A third album was planned (and allegedly written) but theo band disappeared. Bernie Versailles is still active. and a few years back recorded a technical metal album in the vein of watchtower and Confessor that did not get picked up. He has a new band now, Mark Marshall joined Savage Grace and played on their superb After The Fall From Grace album back in ]907. James Murphy went on to play with Death. Obitluary. Testament. Disincarnate (his own band) and has even done a solo album or two.

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-------- 10/01/2014
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