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The Agonist - The Five
Written by Jennifer K. Barry   
Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Agonist - CD Review
The Five

 The Agonist - The Five

CD Info
2016
English lyrics
13 tracks
7.5/10

I will be the first to admit that I am a die-hard Alissa White-Gluz fan, so when I learned that Canadian extreme metal band The Agonist had parted ways with their original frontwoman/vocalist, I was somewhat dismayed. My reaction towards recent line-up changes in the female-fronted metal scene has not been an overall positive one (trying to keep up with the revolving door of female vocalists in established metal acts such as Nightwish, Visions Of Atlantis, Xandria, Sirenia, and Leaves’ Eyes is a bit exhausting, but I digress). I had a difficult time warming up to newcomer Vicky Psarakis’ vocals on Eye Of Providence (2015), so I was honestly feeling a little dubious. However, I have passionately endorsed this band since 2005 and named it as one of my primary influences, so I was thrilled to be able to review their fifth studio album, The Five.

The Moment,” recently released as an official music video, is a catchy opening number. This is a solid start to the album, because it maintains the band’s signature aggression while boasting added mainstream radio appeal. I feel like this track is likely to appeal to fans of metalcore and hard rock who may not have given The Agonist a chance before (it calls to mind Lacuna Coil’s evolution as a band). The guitars are richly-flavored, and provide excellent accents to the throbbing bass and rapid drum beats. My biggest gripe is that I can’t always understand the lyrics; Vicky is an impassioned vocalist with a lot of potential, but I think she could improve vastly by enunciating when she screams.

With the first strains of “The Chain,” listeners are instantly assaulted with an intense series of riffs. This is a fantastic, mosh-worthy metal anthem. The chant of “REVOLUTION, REVOLUTION!” is a rousing call to arms. The words “this is not just a battle, this is bedlam - bedlam on the boulevard” usher in a superb guitar solo. Guitarists Danny Marino and Pascal “Paco” Jobin achieve great interplay. Also notable are contributions by bassist Chris Kills and drummer Simon McKay.

“The Anchor And The Sail” is characterized by churning bass, intricate drum beats, and ferocious screams. The guitar work is also exceptional. While I am not a fan of Vicky’s strident cleans on this track, her extreme vocals are undeniably metal.

“The Game” is a track that would make a thrilling metal single; in my opinion, it would have been perfect as the first music video. While it is certainly a departure from The Agonist’s earlier work, which was a lot more melodic, I think it’s a song that could really expand the band’s fan base.

The next number, “The Ocean,” opens with passionate, contralto vocals. This is where Vicky really seems to hit her stride. Her confidence and brash, take-no-prisoners style is particularly evident here. With the lines “take your time and listen, just listen to the ocean,” her voice will sweep listeners away.

“The Hunt” is an enjoyable listen with some superb extreme vocals, although it is structurally very similar to the previous songs on the album. Stand-out lines: “I’m a monster in their eyes, but they fail to see...they created me.”

My favorite track on the album is by far “The Raven Eyes.” It opens with some intricate keyboard and acoustic work that sounds quite blues-y. This is an excellent showcase of Vicky’s cleans. Her voice is throaty and sensual, and the plaintive beauty of her notes make me wonder whether she’s chosen the right genre. “The Raven Eyes” is melodic, evocative, and stirring.

“The Wake” is a stunningly refreshing, beautiful orchestral track. The lush instrumentation is sure to appeal to fans of Nightwish’s Once. I give this an 8/10.

“The Resurrection” is arguably one of the most aggressive songs on the album. Reminiscent of Arch Enemy’s early work, it also has a bit of an industrial sound. Vicky’s cleans are eerie and spine-tingling. The bass work is especially praise-worthy. This is immediately followed by similar-sounding tracks “The Villain” and “The Pursuit Of Emptiness.” These are very in-your-face, with solid riffs and brash vocals.

The opening on “The Man Who Fell To Earth” reminds me of early Metallica. To be honest, I think the song would be superb as an all-instrumental. While there is nothing wrong with the vocals (they are actually quite masterful), my vote is for the release of a bonus instrumental version.

Now, while I really appreciate what the band was trying to accomplish lyrically with “The Trial,” it took me several listens to be able to catch all the words. The closing lines of the chorus (“How could dawn wait a moment? The night is shortest”) are powerful and deserve to be heard more clearly.

Finally, The Agonist covers Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” as their daring bonus track. I am suitably impressed with their interpretation, which takes a lot of creative risks. Vicky’s voice reminds me of Taylor Momsen’s (of The Pretty Reckless) here.

While this is certainly a departure from The Agonist’s former melodic style, I think there are a lot of highlights on this album, namely “The Raven Eyes” and “The Wake.” Vicky has a lot of potential as a vocalist; I feel like she could be one of the leading ladies of the genre if she just works on her cleans, which strike me as a bit nasal at times. My biggest complaint is that I would like to see more variety in the tracks, as it took me several listens to be able to distinguish between them all. To my fellow Alissa fans who weren’t too impressed with The Agonist’s last release, I would recommend giving The Five a fair shot. I award this album a rating of 7.5/10.

The Agonist official site
The Agonist on Facebook

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