In 2007, Canadian band, The Agonist
released their horrible debut album, Once Only Imagined
through Century Media Records
. Expectations are already lowered when one sees the genre this band comes from (melodic death influenced metalcore) but even with such low expectations you don’t expect such a failure of a debut: uninspired and badly composed guitar works, lazy drumming and singing/screaming that would make M. Shadows cringe. Well maybe I’m being a bit harsh on the screams, they weren’t bad (most of the time) but the clean singing was just terrible. The overall impression you’d get from the band was they had talent but they were unwilling to do anything good with it.
2009, the band release their sophomore effort, Lullabies for the Dormant Mind
. Now, after experiencing their debut, one would definitely feel reluctant to check out anything else they put out. In my case, curiosity got the better of me, so I acquired this to see if they were still horrible.
Listening to the first track one would instantly forget all their previous notions about the band and are left with a thought bubble over their heads that says “Wow!” The band has indeed improved on all fronts with the exception of a few key points. Listening to the intro for the first track sounds like something The Project Hate
would pull off. The song starts off with a fast drum roll before some snazzy riffing comes in followed by vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz
screaming her lovely ass off until she fills in with some of her clean singing, with the guitars and drums still blazing in the background. The Tempest (The Siren's Song; The Banshee's Cry)
appropriately named for the vocal work, is probably one of the highlight songs of the album and has what is the catchiest chorus the band has produced.
All the guitar works on the album are played by Danny Marino
as the other guitarist only plays for them live. Danny’s performance is definitely a treat to listen to this time around, compared to the poor offering on the 1st album. Not only do the guitar works reflect their Scandinavian influences but they also show some pretty good technicality all through out the album proving that Danny has indeed chosen his influences well. Ready to compliment the guitars is the drumming which has also improved quite a lot. Simon McKay
, as a drummer, seems to have matured significantly since Once Only Imagined
and shows his maturity through the blast beats, double bass and fast fills he provides through out the album to keep up with the guitars. The band even incorporated some symphonics into there music, here and there to add to the atmosphere. Instrumentally, Lullabies for the Dormant Mind
is a very solid album but there is that oh so familiar problem with the almost non-existent bass which has plagued so many other bands in the genre.
Now, the main reason a person like myself would check out their music in the first place is because of vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz
. The band gets a lot of attention thanks to her but you can’t really blame them for that because she is really really hot. Greater attention comes from the fact that she appeared in Canadian Idol
and in the 2007 “Hottest Chicks in Metal” feature of Revolver
magazine. Looks wise I’d agree with Revolver
but are her vocals metal enough? Well, her performance is
the highlight of the album. She practically has everything in her vocals: death metal/metalcore growling, clean singing and even some black metal screaming. The variations in her vocals are excellently performed through the songs, usually shifting from growls to cleans and adding some of the black metal screams here and there. An excellent example would be her performance on the song, The Sentient
. Even though the instrumentation on the song is excellent you can’t help from being awed by here insane vocal work.
Even though they are the album’s highlights, Alissa’s vocals aren’t completely free of flaws. I would say that she growls and screams better than most other female growlers but the clean singing still has room for improvement as they still sound out of place and strained at times. Take for example the song, When The Bough Breaks
. Good song, but the cleanly sung chorus in the song seems to be forced and eventually brings down the track. That last bothering factor is the lack of solos. I’ve already complimented Danny Marino
on his work here but he could have added a few more solos to the album as the few that are present are very well performed especially the Arch Enemy
-ish solo in Globus Hystericus
So, the monumental improvements here will definitely surprise those who’ve listened to the bands debut and although the maturity here is evident there is still room for improvement, especially in the clean singing. Flaws or not this is a solid album to listen to. Great guitar works, some excellent harsh vocals and a polished production make it quite enjoyable and if you need a little more motivation to get this, then I suggest you Google Alissa White-Gluz
or check out some songs on their myspace.
The Tempest (The Siren's Song; The Banshee's Cry)
...And Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep
Birds Elope With The Sun