Some band names seem destined to be used over and over, and Vicious Circle is one of those names. As of 2006, at least five bands have been called Vicious Circle -- possibly more -- but the Vicious Circle heard on The Art of Agony may be the oldest. This Vicious Circle, a death metal outfit from southern New Jersey, goes back to 1989 -- and on The Art of Agony (originally released on Neoblast in 2004 and reissued by Crash Music in 2006), the headbangers show no signs of mellowing with age. This is a brutal, head-crushing effort -- not as heavy as some death metal bands, but brutal nonetheless. And that brutality comes from a variety of influences, including early American death metal (especially the Florida bands that Scott Burns worked with), thrash, grindcore, and the technical side of Scandinavian death metal. The guitar playing on this 44-minute CD is very technique-minded, whether Vicious Circle are playing at breakneck speed, embracing a medium tempo, or providing a breakdown. Tempo changes are constant; they are so frequent that they give The Art of Agony an extremely chaotic, spastic, nervous quality, which is exactly what Vicious Circle are going for. Some extreme metal releases are draining because of their pure, unmitigated heaviness, but the thing that does the most to make The Art of Agony an exhausting listen isn't the heaviness or the density -- it is the nervous-as-hell atmosphere that all those tempo changes create. Despite being somewhat uneven and inconsistent, The Art of Agony is a generally decent effort that is worth hearing if one is in the mood for unapologetic sensory assault.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson