Bart M. : Art Against Agony is... Well, it is pretty damn hard to define. Looking at the pictures and the CD booklet I cannot escape the impression that this is a group of people who are trying to make a certain statement. And although the Guy Fawkes masks tend to make that a political statement, some research makes it clear that this (band, album) is an expression of art, and the musicians share the opinion that it is not about who makes the art but it is all about the eventual end result. Of course, this is not fully true for a lot of metal styles, but in this instance that idea holds quite a solid case.
What we are served on 'Shiva Appreciation Society' is mainly an experimental dish. We start off with a nice piano introduction that definitely has a certain twang to it, easily arousing the listener's interest in what is to come. After this we are subjected to the slowly growing louder 'Nothing To Declare!' that finds its way towards nice, atmospheric and oppressive sounds. The verses range from compelling pieces of metal music to bar room jazz, and from cheesy solos to mellow, front porch guitar music. The band (or in this case the word collective may be more appropriate) manages to make the heavier parts sound more subdued and the bits that would have sounded a little boring are made quite interesting by adding several unexpected twists and turns.
Is this a heavy, original metal record? No, but I do not think that was the intention. As an expression of art this album is to be appreciated. Do not expect something to close your eyes and drift away on, it is too chaotic for that; this is music that will keep you on the edge of your seat, waiting anxiously to see where it is going next.