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The Agonist - Prisoners
CD Reviews
Written by Max Levites   
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
The Agonist - CD Review
The Agonist - Prisoners

CD Info
Century Media
11  Tracks
English Lyrics


Since the release of their debut in 2007, Montreal progressive metalcore act The Agonist have made quite a name for themselves. This, however, is not only due to their music. Much of their fame seems to have come from their dynamic singer Alissa, not only a beast behind the mic but also a vocal supporter of animal rights and social change. She even recently appeared on MTV’s Made as a coach for a shy high school girl who wanted to front a metal band. And, let’s face it, she’s hot.

We can debate whether that’s fair or sexist or whatever until the end of time. What really matters in this review is the music, and The Agonist has proven time and time again that there’s more to the band than a hot chick singer. Their third album, Prisoners, is their most mature work to date, taking the direction they were exploring with their previous album, Lullabies for the Dormant Mind, fleshing it out and adding new elements and sophistication to their sound. Prisoners sees The Agonist adding a progressive edge to their music. The songs get longer and more technical, allowing the band to flesh out their ideas and explore new territory instead of cramming everything they can think of into three or four-minute songs like they did on their previous album. With my limited knowledge of music theory, I can’t really tell you much about time changes and harmonies, but what we see on this album are more extended instrumental passages that move effortlessly from heavy riffing and technical guitar work to quiet acoustic moments, giving guitarist Danny Marino a chance to shine through with his brilliant playing. The best example of this is "Ideomotor," which ends with a three-minute outro of pounding drums and an impressive solo.

Alissa, of course, shines as much as ever. Though known as probably one of the most impressive female growlers in the metal world, she’s proven on past albums that she can also sing. While on Lullabies we saw her take a mostly classical approach to her clean vocals, on Prisoners Alissa mixes it up, trying out jazzy and soulful styles as well, most evident on tracks like "Dead Ocean" and "Revenge of the Dadaist." She even takes her screaming to new levels, opening up the album with black metal shrieks in the first half of "You’re Coming With Me" and exploring just what she’s capable of throughout the album.

All of these elements keep the songs interesting throughout and make Prisoners an enjoyable listen. My one qualm with the album lies within the lyrics. Lullabies impressed me with its lyrical content because it was intellectual, philosophical, yet accessible, exploring many different themes in a way that the listener could understand but without dumbing it down. On the new album, Alissa becomes a bit more ambitious with the lyrics, and though a few songs still have the same attraction as older ones ("Predator & Prayer" "The Mass of the Earth"), when I have to start looking up words to figure out what a song is about, it stops being enjoyable and starts seeming pretentious. Perhaps I would appreciate it more with a background in philosophy, but having taken only one philosophy course in college so far, I find myself lost at times.

Overall though, Prisoners is an hour well spent, and no doubt an album I’ll keep coming back to. The Agonist have given us a more mature and polished album that shows great confidence and ambition. I’m curious to see where this band goes next, but I’m sure it can only be somewhere great!

Standout tracks: "You’re Coming With Me" "Predator & Prayer" "Ideomotor" "Dead Ocean" "Revenge of the Dadaist"

8 / 10

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