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"The Agonist" is a band from Canada that plays metalcore. Now, I'm not gonna hate on metalcore or them because they are a metalcore band, I enjoyed this album. The music is both heavy and melodic at the same time, without leaning to far to one side. The vocals reflect this balance, for vocalist Alissa White-Gluz takes both parts of harsh and clean vocals, and both styles end up in the music evenly. The balance is almost perfect, just the sense of dynamic has not made its way in the music yet, most of the music is louder and louder still.
The guitars create a good platform for the sound, the parts are usually a mix of chugging and melodic riffs, usually alternating between the two. This along with the bass, which is in the back of the mix gives strength and intensity. This combination of thunderous instrumentation is a platform for the vocals to stand on. Alissa uses her very clean and pure screams and her lower choppier growl to highlight and compliment her alto clean voice and vice versa. The drummer tends to do his job well, but there isn't much creativity in that section of the music.
Overall the album was a pleasant experience and was quite enjoyable. The music is powerful and intense, but there is no sense of dynamic, volume doesn't tend to rise and fall. Tension is created to relieve tension, this album creates has this intensity but the tension never resolves.
Highlights: Rise and Fall, Take a Bow & Serendipity
What is similar about Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Nickleback and The Agonist? They all make music that is an embarrassment to Canada. Their promotional pictures show that the band consists of one very attractive goth girl and three guys trying way too hard to look serious. But can we take them seriously? The simple answer is no. We can't take anyone who makes such bad music seriously. This band sounds exactly the same as every other generic metalcore band that scene kids love to worship.
After listening to the whole album, I have a sneaking suspicion that I have just listened to the same song over and over. But I will never know. There is not enough substance to the songs to actually tell them apart. The guitarist really likes to play those annoying start-stop metalcore riffs. Just listen to any metalcore album and you will know what I'm talking about. There is a lot of generic down tuned chugging as well. It seems as if the guitar was down tuned so it would sound more heavy. They fail miserably in this respect. He can down tune his guitar as much as he likes, it won't make up for the generic riffs. Another thing that really annoys me about the guitar is that the guitar player keeps playing what is equivalent of pig squeals. It does nothing for the songs except for making them even more annoying to listen to.
The Agonist uses both harsh and clean vocals. For the harsh vocals she tries just about every technique known to metal. She did produce a decent death growl once or twice, but she manages to botch everything else. Her clean vocals aren't horrible, but they have been done to death by bands that sound exactly like The Agonist. They kind of sound like Evanescence mixed with Paramore. Yeah, I did say they weren't horrible. But they're not exactly the best I've ever heard. The main problem I have with her clean singing is there is absolutely no variety. They sound the same in every song.
While as a whole, this album is terrible and generic, some moments are worse than others. The weirdest thing about this album is that the lyrics are good. Besides a few immature lines, the lyrics bring up a lot of problems with modern society and uses morbid imagery in an effective way. It is a shame they are wasted on such a bland and annoying album. There are only two moments on this record that I actually enjoy. They are both acoustic interludes. One is the song "Chiaroscuro" and the other is found in the second half of "Void of Sympathy." They give the listener a much needed break from the relentlessly generic metalcore. They provide some nice melodies and atmosphere, something the rest of the album doesn't even come close to achieving.
If for whatever reason, you still want to give this album a chance, just look up the song "Forget Tomorrow" on YouTube and you will know at once how awful this album is. This album really serves no other purpose than being a masturbation aid for scene kids. No self respecting metal fan would be caught dead listening to this. This album isn't worth your time and it is certainly not worth a cent of your money.
If there's one thing that I hate, it's when people judge a book by its cover. When you look at The Agonist you might see a road map to musical disaster: A hot chick as the lead singer, and a bunch of guys trying to look really hard but not doing a very good job in all the promotional photos of the band. But there is so much more to The Agonist than that image would lead you to believe, and this album is perfect proof of that. With the exception of the vocal stylings of Gluz the band really doesn't do anything great individually, but is fantastic as a sum of their parts.
Once Only Imagined is a very melodic metalcore album. It has a lot of clean singing interspersed with the screams of the very talented Alissa-White Gluz, plenty of breakdowns, and riffs that don't rely on crushing brutality ala Hatebreed. Guitarist Danny Marino (no relation to the Dolphins QB) lays down a couple of solid solos throughout the album, most notably on the first complete song, Rise and Fall. The drumming of Simon McKay is fantastic in a pretty simple way. Pure, driving, powerful metal drumming. The bass work from Chris Kells is perfectly serviceable, but nothing spectacular. The overall production is very solid with my only complaint being that you can't really hear the basslines all the time, but hey, it's metal, you'll have just as much trouble hearing the bass on a Slayer album as you will here.
The album starts off with a nice intro track in Synopsis that leads into Rise and Fall which absolutely kicks ass. The second Synopsis ends, the crushing opening riff from Rise and Fall kicks in and blows you away. It's one of the few truly heavy riffs on the album, but it is definitely a winner. Rise and Fall introduces you to the dynamic and powerful vocals of Alissa-White Gluz. These go perfectly with the politically and personally charged lyrics she writes for the band. Very reminiscent of the master of this for the female gender Otep Shamaya. Rise and Fall gives way to Born Dead; Buried Alive which has a booming chorus built on amazing vocals and furious guitar work. The album goes along with Take a Bow and Trophy Kill before it heads into the bands signature song: Business Suits and Combat Boots.
"Does history guide you, or do you set out to change it?"
The lyrics to this song are just perfect. Super charged with vegan and far left wing awareness, her screams truly live up to the passion that is within the lyrics. The song has a soaring chorus and an absolutely epic breakdown with fierce screaming and staccato riffing. Easily the best track on the album, and one of the best when performed live, this is not only one of the best of 2007 but also one of my favorites of all time.
Unfortunately, right after the high point of the album it goes a little bit downhill. The songs (Serendipity, Memento Mori, Void of Sympathy, and Chiaroscuro) are good, but just lack the spark that the first half of the album had. There are some nice moments but they just never explode like a Business Suits and Combat Boots does. Luckily, Forget Tomorrow ends the album off with a bang. Some awesome riffs and good lyrics drive you to the finish and leave you wanting more. Exactly how a metal album should end.
Once Only Imagined has some flaws. Mostly a somewhat dull period for the first part of the second half of the album. Overall it shows you a band with tons of talent and a clear purpose to make some really awesome music. Other than Alissa-White Gluz, no one in the band really shines through on this album, but they work together beautifully. You may really want to just look over these guys because of the waves of female fronted metal bands nowadays, but The Agonist is going to be around for a long time if they can keep it up like this.
It would be safe to say that this past decade, we've been force-fed an unbelievable amount of neo-trash, hardcore, breakdown-heavy, bottom-of-the-barrel rubbish from major labels like Century Media and Nuclear Blast. If we count all the indie labels too, things get even murkier. Then comes The Agonist, with their first release on Century Media. Does the trend continue? Not really, but...
The first thing you notice when you play this album is the overall lack of heaviness. I can't pinpoint it to one specific thing; whether it's Danny Marino's guitar tone (weak is the only word that comes to mind), the very basic drum lines, or just the fact that there's only 2 or 3 heavy riffs (not breakdowns here) on the album. The opening riff to "Born Dead, Buried Alive" sounds savage. But somewhere along the execution of it, it feels like it lost its potency. The same can be said of "Business Suits & Combat Boots" as well as "Rise and Fall".
The breakdowns are obviously heavy-ish, but are so omnipresent that you almost have a hard time distinguishing what song you're listening to. You also have a thousand bands out there who can do the same thing, with a meaner sound. The overuse of the breakdowns leads to this: Chugga-chugga riff, followed by x-amount of pull-offs and hammer-ons. Repeat 45 times too often. It makes for a bland overall experience.
Their first single "Business Suits & Combat Boots" is clearly the front-runner in terms of quality on the album. Which, is great to get name recognition and improve sales. However the down-side to this is that there's no real hidden gem on this album. The closest thing to that would be "Born Dead, Buried Alive" which suffers from the criticisms mentionned above.
Now, there isn't only negative things to be said of this album. Alissa's screams on this record are at times fantastic, other times unbelievable! You can tell the lyrical content is something she holds to heart, and she wants all to hear about it. The clean vocals need more practising, but are passable. The song ideas are also fresh, but sadly get tied down with the over-presence of the breakdowns. And despite the fact that I find it lacks a heavy sound (especially considering its genre), a selection of these songs could make for an absolutely brutal live set.
In the end, it's an album that shows the flaws and strengths of a new band trying to make its name. I look forward to the sophomore album, as this band has obvious talent. Now they just need to focus it in the right direction - whichever that be for them.
The Agonist. Yet another melodeath metalcore band who wants you to take them seriously. It's awfully hard to do so when all they have are breakdowns making up most of their songs. The guitar work is so very generic that even Job For A Cowboy has to take a step back and ask "What the hell?". It seems like they downtuned just to get a feeling of heaviness throughout their songs, yet they still come off light as a feather. So weak and contrived the guitar work is on this album. But that is not the worst part.
I have nothing against female vocals. I listen to bands such as Demonic Christ, Unexpect, Within Temptation (old) and Light This City, all who have very competent female vocalists. This band, however, does not. Her screams are mediocre at best and powerfully weak at their worst. Her voice reminds me of a dying animal, though I can't figure out which one. You thought it was going to stop there? Absolutely not. She sings too. The singing vocals are too melodramatic. She tries to get her point across a little too hard when she sings.
Finally, the drumwork needs a little bit of hate. To say the drum lines in each song sound amateurish is an understatement.It seems like they just hired a random guy off of the street and said, "Hey, play drums for us." It sounds like a 12 year old could play those srums with ease. Also, the drums sounded triggered. With lines as weak as those, why would they trigger drums? Some things are never meant to be answered I guess.
This is one of the worst albums I've ever heard. Thanks, The Agonist. Thanks for wasting my time. And thank you, Century Media, for shoving this crap sown our throats. Anyone remotely into melodic death metal or are just getting into melodeath should avoid at all costs. Hell, everybody should just avoid this.