Sound — 10
The Agonist's sophomore effort contains elements of everything from blues and classical music to death and black metal. It all comes together into a form of melodic death metal, the metalcore sound from the first album is gone. Danny Marino's interesting guitar work with lots of unorthodox chords and progressive elements, has improved since the first album and he definitely has own unique style now. Bassist Chris Kells and drummer Simon Mckay are excellent musicians as well, and blue haired singer Alissa White-Gluz is just unstoppable.
The album kicks off strong with the best song the band has written so far, "The Tempest (The Sirens Song; The Banshee's Cry)." The drumming on this track is absolutely insane, some of the best drumming I've heard in my life. It's also one of Alissa's finest moments on the record. This was the first song the band wrote with Simon McKay on drums, after he joined the group in 2007. It starts with a kick a-s drum fill, then heads into several awesome guitar riffs and vocal parts in a row. The song has an oriental feel to it and a great chorus. One of my favorite songs of all time. "...and Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep" (the song that got me hooked after seeing the music video) shows the bands death metal side. Interesting song structure with every section only appearing once. The death growls at the end are very impressive. "Thank You, Pain," the bands most popular song, features Alissa's best singing on the record. Great lyrics and outstanding guitar solo.
"Birds Elope With the Sun" is a very diverse and technically impressive song, and "Waiting Out the Winter" is a calmer track written entirely by Simon. "Martyr Art" is very intense with more fantastic drumming and impressive guitar work. Has a weird time signature and Alissa sings a part of the song in French. Great melodic solo at the end. Next is "Globus Hystericus," the first part of a trilogy, with parts 2 & 3 consisting of "The Sentient" & "When the Bough Breaks." The song is about the bad things we're doing to our planet, featuring some complex lyrics and a shredding guitar solo. There's a nice break from the all heaviness with Alissa's acapella cover of Swan Lake, showing off her mezzo-soprano range. It then explodes into the very fast and aggressive "The Sentient," about the cruel things we're doing to animals. The trilogy is rounded of by "When the Bough Breaks," which is about when it all crashes down and we regret what we have done. Killer riffs and a forceful breakdown. "Chlorpromazine," the final song, has a very calm second half where a stunning violin melody is backed up by a nice bassline. Dark riffs and superb black metal screams at the end.
Lyrics — 10
Less than a minute into the first track you can hear a huge improvement in Alissa's vocals. Her growl has an organic sound to it, and she utilizes it with great variation. Her vocals on the next album is damn near perfection, but already on this album she crushes all other female growlers, including Angela Gossow and Otep Shamaya. In fact, she's better than most male growlers to. Her singing is also fantastic, not the best out there, but in combination with her guttural and live performance, I would say she's the best female metal vocalist out there.
When it comes to the lyrics, everything except "Waiting Out the Winter" is written by Alissa, who writes some of the best and most interesting lyrics in metal. It's mostly centered around life, animal cruelty and the earth and the environment, but also features more common subject matters. Some it is a bit complex and can be hard to understand, just take a part like this: "Millenia of ancestry, plowed down for modern industry; the solution to their housing crisis was in fact the cause." or "Foolish is the one who complacently thinks himself king, because when time erodes the past what remains are Nature's things." Some part are almost poetry and a lot of what I do understand is pretty beautiful; "When does three equal one plus one? The answer is birth - life's creation." or "Shattered glass falls as the atmosphere cracked and we're invaded by emptiness black." You can tell that Alissa feels very strongly for these lyrics by the amount of emotion (especially anger) she manages to put into her vocals.
My favorite lines are "Tradition exists when no one has the guts to change." and "We won't outlive our generation but our impact surely will."
Overall Impression — 10
"Lullabies for the Dormant Mind" is so much better than the bands debut that it's almost hard to believe it's the same band. "Once Only Imagined" was still a very good record, but not that original. Christian Donaldson of Cryptopsy has been the bands producer since this album, so I guess he and the addition of Simon McKay had a lot do with the improvement of the bands sounds. The production is great, especially the drums with some parts of the drum kit playing in the right speaker, other parts in the left. This makes the drum fills sound even more awesome, as they arch back and forth through the speakers/headphones. The guitar tone is nice & raw, but the vocals are mixed a bit high, and there's a slight lack of low end sound.
The additional instruments and backing vocals featured on most tracks, adds a great atmosphere and makes those songs even better.
"Lullabies" is one of my favorite albums of all time, and The Agonist has quickly risen to becoming one of my favorite bands. The album is just phenomenal from start to finish, and through out most of the record it sounds like the band members are in a fight about who's best. It seems unlikely than they will ever top this release, but you never know with a band of such talent and high level of musicianship. The strongest tracks are "The Tempest," "Thank You, Pain," "Eulogies," "Birds Elope With the Sun," "When the Bough Breaks" & "Globus Hystericus." One of the finest and most interesting metal albums of the 2000's.