Sound — 8
Before changing their name to The Agonist, the band known as The Tempest was formed in 2004 by vocalist Alissa White-Gluz, guitarist Danny Marino and bassplayer Chris Kells. The bands first drummer Derek Nadon (who was replaced by Simon McKay just before the released of the album), plays all the drums on "Once Only Imagined." He isn't nearly as amazing as Simon, but his style of playing is uniqe and intresting, especially his progressive use of the snare drum. He doesn't play blast beats or anything super fast, but he definitely makes the songs heavy.
Moving on to the guitars... Danny uses a lot of unusual and unorthodox chords. His playing contains elements of everything from death metal and metalcore to jazz and blues. His solos are melodic and he never uses the wha-pedal. Together with Chris's also multi genre inspired bass playing, things can get really diverse, even if that's more the case on the 2 following albums. The metalcore part of the music lays in a lot of the riffs and the occasional breakdown. The production is great but the guitar sound and mixing could've been done so it sounded less like your typical metalcore album. The band now has Christian Donaldson as their producer.
The album starts with a 30 sec. intro that works as build-up for the first song; "Rise and Fall." This heavy track is one of the best on the record and a fun one to play on guitar. Has an awesome heavy part after the second chorus and a great guitar solo. Next is my favorite song on the album and the first one I heard from this band, "Born Dead, Buried Alive," which slams Christianity and describes religion as a brainwashing culture. The riffs are many and Alissa has never sounded angrier on a song.
"Take a Bow" is another really fun tune to play on guitar and "Serendipity" has a nice breakdown in the middle of the song. My second favorite song on the album; "Business Suits" and "Combat Boots," attacks plastic surgery and the shallow, materialistic part of our society. The riffs are basic but very heavy and the chorus features Alissa's best singing on the record. "Memento Mori," my third favorite song on the album, is the heaviest and the only song where the drumming is really impressive. The death metal part at the end is awesome and contains the best growling on the debut. "Void of Sympathy" and the follow interlude is the bands calmest material to date, while the last song "Forget Tomorrow," is a really aggressive track. Some really nice screams on that one.
Lyrics — 9
Alissa's lyrics and the mix between screams and clean singing has always been, along with Danny's unique guitar-playing, the Agonist's strongest side. The lyrics on "Once Only Imagined" are as good as ever, and even if Alissa's vocals aren't fully there yet, she sounds really pissed. The lyrical themes focus around animal cruelty, the earth and the environment, war, religion and society issues. Alissa is one of my favorite lyric-writers, and many times her lyrics definitely speaks the truth. They're often bit a complex and with a poetic undertone. The only downside is that sometimes things get a bit too complex and you can't understand what the lyrics are about. However, things don't get that complex on the debut. The highlights are "Trophy Kill" and "Business Suits and Combat Boots," the first of which contains the following lyrics: "A consumption society breaks right through the door / fresh Mermaid carcasses wash upon the shore." The later one has lyrics like "Put in / Suck out plastic body parts / It's the ever growing industry / Of cosmetic arts" and "You can't know the sweetness of victory / Without first dwelling in the agony of defeat." I find a lot of similarities with Laura Nichol's lyrics in "Light This City."
Overall Impression — 8
"Once Only Imagined" is an excellent metal album. The aggression and the riffs are there, and even if the drumming and vocals leaves a bit more to be desired for, it doesn't hurt the album. It's not as good as the following albums, but it's definitely better than Alissa's first album with Arch Enemy. The best songs are "Rise and Fall," "Born Dead, Buried Alive," "Business Suits and Combat Boots" and "Memento Mori." I also have to mention the Japanese bonus track "Feel No Guilt," which is also a really good song.