Agony Column

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Self-described "hellbilly head-bangers" who fused thrash metal and Southern rock.
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In an era of homogenized metal bands and superficial glam rockers, self-described "hellbilly head-bangers" the Agony Column sliced through prevalent clich├ęs like a hot knife through butter; their quirky musical fusion of thrash metal and Southern rock conspiring with a penchant for wry humor and self-mockery (all virtually unheard of in a metal scene suffocated by its own self-importance) to honor the "weird" reputation of their hometown of Austin, Texas. With roots dating back to 1985, the Agony Column was comprised of vocalist Richie "Devil Chicken" Turner, guitarist Stuart "Bat Lord" Lawrence, bassist Pawl "Crow" Willis, and drummer Charlie "Red Wing Viper" Brownell -- all of whom apparently held Slayer, the Butthole Surfers, and Black Oak Arkansas in equally high esteem (Turner's hoarse squawk, in particular, showed a large debt to Jim "Dandy" Mangrum). Though the fledgling band's first widely circulated demo, 1987's Hellbilly Death Metal Onslaught, didn't quite live up to its title (not least because actual death metal evolved in an entirely different direction, years later), the aforementioned combination of fury and comedy was already intact, and its songs ultimately provided the backbone of 1989's full-length debut, Gods, Guns & Guts. Problem was, neither this nor 1990's Comes Alive EP (which featured a cover of Mountain's "Mississippi Queen") struck a chord with the metal-buying public at large; and when 1991's more accomplished and adventurous Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles pushed the songwriting envelope even further beyond thrash, people really didn't get it. This lack of commercial success (critical respect was never lacking), compounded with the ascent of grunge, convinced the Agony Column to take an extended break from which they would only emerge five years later, armed with a third album named Way Back in the Woods, which conceded nothing to mainstream conventions by once again inserting alien musical influences, most notably country. The band, minus bassist Willis (who had been replaced by Billy Dansfield on that final album), has occasionally reconvened for the odd concert or two over the years, but the group and its intriguing recorded output sadly remains the stuff of cult followings.