Sound — 8
The Agonist formed in Canada in 2004, though they were originally known as The Tempest until 2007. The band has toured almost nonstop since the release of their first album in 2007, though they haven't received the recognition of some of the similar bands of the genre and style. In 2014, the founding vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz, was invited to join Arch Enemy as their vocalist, Angela Gossow, stepped down from vocal duties and took over the band's management instead. While Alissa White-Gluz declared this the end of The Agonist "as you know it" and that the band was "over," the band quickly announced Vicky Psarakis as her replacement and began recording of their fourth album, "Eye of Providence." Danny Marino, on guitars, and Chris Kells, on bass and backing vocals, remain as founding members. The album has 13 tracks and an approximate runtime of 58 minutes. The album is being released on Century Media Records.
The album opens with the track, "Gates of Horn and Ivory," which is a nice heavy track that gives Vicky the opportunity to scream and sing pretty, both, to let you know she's up for the job right out the gate. "My Witness, Your Victim" opens up with some electronic glitchy sounds, but then the guitar and drums slowly get louder and take over the spotlight in the song. Some of Vicky's best clean vocals are included on this song. "Danse Macabre" has a cool opening with a lot of groove, with a tight rhythm part. "I Endeavor" is another good heavy track that is pretty straightforward - there are a lot of good screamed vocals and some good melodies going on. I also like the way the clean vocals are used on this track to really create a contrast between the screamed vocals. "Faceless Messenger" opens up with a kind of rotating speaker effect mixed into the balance before the actual song starts, which is a nice touch - especially with some good headphones - and this song has a very strong rhythm part. "Perpetual Notion" has an acoustic opening with Vicky humming along to the acoustic guitar, but it changes gears dramatically, bringing in heavy guitars and pounding drums - and some really awesome vocal work on this track, as well. "A Necessary Evil" opens up with some awesomely vile screamed vocals, contrasting with some relatively clean harmonized vocals and this song also has my favorite bassline from the album - or at least my favorite "discernible" bassline. "Architects Hallucinate" has some cool guitar work on it, and some of the most obvious backing vocals from the album, though used very sparingly. "Disconnect Me" is a very fast and aggressive track. "The Perfect Embodiment" has a cleaner opening, with clean vocals and mostly clean guitar and bass - it really is a strong song - and slowly builds in heaviness, though the vocals never get truly heavy. The guitar solo from "The Perfect Embodiment" are also one of the best from the album. "A Gentle Disease" is an acoustic track, using dissonance to great effect, with solely clean vocals and a long instrumental outro. "Follow the Crossed Line" has another great rhythm part, and opens up with clean vocals - but with screamed vocals in the "chorus" - I like it quite a bit. "So Above, So Below" is the closing track on this album, and is relatively clean throughout - the guitars get a little dirt in the tone, but the vocals stay clean, and it is just a really well written song. I'm super impressed with this album, and I'm super impressed with Vicky Psarakis as a vocalist.
Lyrics — 8
Vicky Psarakis is very similar in vocal style to Alissa White-Gluz, but honestly I think I may like her a little bit better than Alissa White-Gluz, but I can see other fans falling on the other side of that opinion. Regardless of which vocalist you prefer, Vicky definitely has a good voice and knows how to use it to great effect. I definitely appreciate the way she uses the contrast between her clean and dirty vocals. The backing vocals are used sparingly and to good effect on the album, as well. The lyrics have some substance to them, which immediately gets a thumbs up from me as any metal band that isn't just trying to sound as dark as possible and is actually saying something gets my personal seal of approval.
As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the opening track "Gates of Horn and Ivory": "Craving possession/ material obsession/ you function solitarily/ on lower brain transmission/ you want it, you need it/ you're never gonna get it/ cause really what you're chasing/ is a lie to begin with/ paralyze/ manufacture aspiration/ design the ideal outcome/ would you like to hear your story/ all this time you've played the part/ a part that was chosen just for you/ bite down on the painless/ enter the gates of horn and ivory/ with fire at my back/ I will tame the waters/ I will learn to swim/ fear is not my master/ how do I breathe/ you will choke/ how do I walk/ you will fall/ instinct to the extinct/ paralyze by analysis/ trapped in delusions/ ghosts are out to haunt you/ the world you've grown to love/ is slowly crumbling." I like their lyrics - they are sometimes more or less abstract, but they always seem authentic.
Overall Impression — 8
I think that Danny Marino, especially, and Chris Kells have been a large part of what sets the band apart from other groups in the genre, and that hasn't changed. I can see mixed reactions to Alissa leaving the band and the inclusion of Vicky, but honestly I think it is a better fit. Nobody outside the band knows how it really went down, but Alissa's announcements when she left The Agonist seemed to be trying to hurt the band as she was leaving instead of trying to build them up. She was basically poached by a more successful band and she ditched her band she'd been working with for a decade - she should have been building The Agonist up and not tearing them down. I think that Danny's playing speaks for itself, both his composition and technical ability, and Vicky definitely steps up to the plate and proves she's got what it takes. My favorite track from the album is possibly "Gates of Horn and Ivory," but I can listen to the album from start to finish without really getting tired of it or skipping any songs. "Danse Macabre" and "Perpetual Notion" are two more of my favorite songs from the album.