"Pop Culture Disruptor" (Streamline Records; 2022)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton 

Artificial Agent comes roaring back with their new release, "Pop Culture Disruptor."

"Pop Culture Disruptor" is another collection of sturdy, crunchy rockers, tunes that move along at a steady pace, pulling you from one track to the next with an irresistible power that might as well be magnetic. As on their previous release, "Death Ray," the tracks are guitar heavy, loaded with addictive vocal hooks and rhythms that stick in your brain from the first note. Things get a little weird now and then as well, as on "Do Or Die," which starts off like an obscure Rolling Stones tune and then builds into another sing-along rocker and the bass-heavy "Don't Breathe" with its Alice Cooper vibe. But weird is good. I wouldn't expect anything less from a band with this kind of talent.

Speaking of Alice Cooper, that's who vocalist Derek Jendza reminds me most of. He's got one of those rock chameleon voices that allow him to adjust his sound not just to the particular song he's performing but the particular place in the song he's preforming. In other words, he can tune his sound from verse to chorus and make it fit exactly right. The guitar work here is commendable as well, fiery and loud, just like rock guitar should be. The rhythm section keeps up their end, too, giving each track more than enough punch. And since we're talking about sound, let me take a moment and commend the production of this album. It sounds great from beginning to end, crisp and clear and well-mixed.

My favorite tracks this time out are the title (and first) track, which gets things started with its driving rhythm and brainworm chorus; the slick "Off the Deep End" with its furious and funky guitar riffs, and the swaggering "Headed for Disaster." Like the previous album, there isn't a bad track anywhere to be found here. In fact, if I have any complaint about "Pop Culture Disruptor" it's that there isn't enough of it. The nine tracks hereon run a total of just shy of 27 minutes. Maybe I'm just greedy, but I could've used a couple more tracks here. "Pop Culture Disruptor" is over too soon. The good news is that I can simply play it again!

I heartily recommend Artificial Agent and "Pop Culture Disruptor" to any rock'n'roll fan. This is the kind of music they say they don't make anymore. Gene Simmons famously said that rock'n'roll is dead. Artificial Agent is proof positive that isn't the case at all.

Artificial Agent is: Derek Jendza; Mike Elgert; Brad Jendza; Karl Crafton.

(For the record, I've had this album on auto play the entire time I've been writing this review and "Do Or Die" just started again. I like that track more and more each time I hear it).

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"Death Ray" (Streamline Records; 2020)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton 

With its driving guitars and relentless pace, Artificial Agent does some damage with their album, "Death Ray."

"Death Ray" is one of those CDs that catches your attention from the very first note. The guitars are big and crunchy with a little funkiness thrown in when necessary (as on "The Devil Made Me Do It.").  The songs are loaded with sticky hooks that will have you singing along the first time you listen to each track. They're not syrupy sticky hooks but they're not subtle either. It makes for addictive listening. The moment the album comes to an end you can't wait to start listening from the beginning again.

The thing I think I like most about "Death Ray" is that its sound is in the classic vein of bands like Blue Oyster Cult, UFO and the like but with a more modern edge. We're not talking nu-metal or anything like that here. "Death Ray" is hard rock through-and-through, but the songwriting style, the vocals and the production all sound a little more like today instead of yesterday.

Speaking of the production, I love the way "Death Ray" sounds. The guitars are bright and in-your-face, whether it's a riff or a solo, and the vocals are clear and the lyrics understandable. That overall clarity has a big effect on the album's success.

My favorite tracks are probably the opener, "Eye for an Eye,"  the pulsing "We All Need Heroes" and the powerful "Always a Victim" although, to be completely honest, there isn't a track here I don't like.  "Death Ray" is the kind of recording that makes you sit up and take notice of a band and, trust me, I've already begun to dig up their back catalog ("Brain Grenade" from 2014, here I come!)

Artificial Agent is: Derek Jendza; Mike Elgert; Brad Jendza; Karl Crafton. If some of those names sound familiar, you might check out the review found here.

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"Programmed to Destroy" (Streamline Records; 2017)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton 

If you're into chunky guitars, melodic tunes, and songs that (for the most part) chug along with a driving rhythm, then Artificial Agent's "Programmed to Destroy" is for you.

The album begins with the pounding "Devil in the White Dress," with its throbbing guitars, irresistible chorus and cowbells (yes, cowbells), a tune that sets the stage for the next four tracks, which are all rumbling tunes with sharp melodic hooks and headbang inducing.

Then comes track number six, "I'd Rather Be Blind," a slower tune which combines Alice Cooper weirdness with Beatles atmosphere and Bowie-esque choruses. It's a great fucking song, maybe my favorite on this album, and is sequenced perfectly in the middle. "Carousel" follows and it starts off with a simmering build-up to a powerful, hammering crescendo. The next few songs return to the high-energy rock'n'roll of the first few tracks. And the album closes out with the musical blunt instrument of "Tonight, You're a Killer," once again bringing to mind the legendary Alice Cooper.

"Programmed to Destroy" is another outstanding album from Artificial Agent. The songs are well-played and well-written, the vocals and musicianship are terrific and the production (and packaging) first rate. This band knows how to do it all, from creating great music to recording it to packaging it to performing live (at least based on what I've seen on YouTube.) If you're a fan of hard rock, this is a band you need to keep your eye on.

Artificial Agent is: Derek Jendza; Mike Elgert; Brad Jendza; Karl Crafton.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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