The Agonist – Prisoners

The Agonist

Prisoners

01. You’re Coming With me
02. The Escape
03. Predator & Prayer
04. Anxious Darwinians
05. Panophobia
06. Ideomotor
07. Lonely Solipsist
08. Dead Ocean
09. The Mass Of The Earth
10. Everybody Wants You (dead)
11. Revenge Of The Dadaists

[06/05/12]
[Century Media]

You know, The Agonist are a damn solid band. They’re one of the few female fronted bands that are actually carried by the immense skill of the singer instead of her looks (even though Alyssa White-Gluz is very pretty), and even without her, the riffing is good enough to make the band worthwhile. Over the years, they’ve gotten heavier and downright better, and their third album Prisoners sounded like it would be their best to date. Is it so?

In short, yes. The songwriting has gotten better, incorporating more elements from all genres of metal; be it black, death, heavy or progressive. Even though the base shell is metalcore, every song has some unique thing going on. Some songs are quite cheesy (in a good way in my opinion), and others are quite grim, which gives the album a good, varied character that helps it dodge the trap of becoming boring near the end. Each member tries even harder than the previous album, as if the members of the band have all practiced in the past three years and upped the ante for the new album. The Agonist isn’t simple metalcore anymore (well, they weren’t like that since Once Only Imagined). This album has quite a bit of progressive influence, and at times it’s even technical. There’s a lot of blues influence on certain songs. The opener ‘You’re Coming With Me’ has a nice black metal feel; ‘The Escape‘ is like a progressive Nevermore song. ‘Panophobi’ is a really heavy thrashy track with impressive lead work, while ‘Dead Ocean’ is quite atmospheric and post-metal-like. This is a very ambitious album, with all the songs taking metalcore to the next level.

It’s hard to call The Agonist metalcore anymore, because their sound covers such a wide range of influences. The thing is, they do this without sounding inconsistent or half-hearted; when they’re doing death metal riffs they sound more genuine than any deathcore band. Well, it helps that they have an amazing drummer that can spice up tried and true metalcore patterns into something more interesting while being able to blast like seasoned death metal veterans. Similarly for the guitars,  most bands of the less intense genres (like metalcore or djent) sound very forced when trying to incorporate death or progressive metal riffs into their arsenal, but here it’s all part of the sound. Prisoners definitely pushes the genre forward and explores what can seamlessly be integrated into a metalcore sound.

Speaking of upping the ante, Alyssa has definitely improved her singing. Not that she was bad to begin with, but the singing (and growling) on this album is just incredible. Her clean sections would make any R&B singer jealous, and she sings with some R&B and jazz influences too. Her growls, on the other hand, are so fierce and powerful that they would shame even the most seasoned metalcore singer, and would make some death metal singers question their choice of career. On some songs she employs a very unique singing growl (which was also used on their previous album, but not as frequently) that adds an extra amount of kick to the already amazing melodies. One might even go as far as saying she is one of the best singers in metal, which is a significant triumph in such a male-dominated genre. With memorable hooks and powerful lines, the singing on this album is just amazing.

Unfortunately, and believe me when I say that this pains me greatly, the production on the album is not as good as it could have been. In fact, it’s a step back from Lullabies for The Dormant Mind. The problem lies in the guitars; their tone is very drowned and they cover a very narrow part of the “soundscape”. Alyssa’s voice is very clearly audible and so are the drums, but the guitars are drowned out between those two. It’s not a deal breaker, but it does hamper the enjoyment one can get from the album over a long period of listening. It’s a shame, because the guitar work is more interesting than pretty much every other metalcore band out there. Some riffs are genuinely near technical death metal level, and there are some face-ripping solos that complement the singing very seamlessly.

Overall, Prisoners is an excellent album. Alyssa is an amazing singer, but there is so much more on display here than just metalcore with great singing. This is a truly brilliant album that is a shining example of its genre, and a perfect blend of several other genres of metal. There really isn’t anything to fault in the songwriting, and the overall experience is very enjoyable. There are only a handful of albums that are of comparable quality within the boundaries of metalcore in terms of songs. While Prisoners is unfortunately marred by less-than-perfect production; it is otherwise a near-perfect album that is definitely noteworthy.

The Agonist – Prisoners

4.5/5

– NT

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