Review Summary: An album almost as astounding as the level of progress made by the band itself.
This female-fronted Canadian band have always given the impression that they have bucket loads of talent, but can’t seem to find a way to break free of the flaws that largely plagued the dying genre of metalcore. While their debut was canned for being a generic, run-of-the-mill release, lacking in inspiration and creativity, there were glimpses of untapped potential. Songs like “Rise and Fall”, “Take a Bow” and the single “Business Suits and Combat Boots” raised eyebrows for being genuinely decent songs in an otherwise poor album. If only The Agonist were able to keep the filler to a minimum and find something that made them stand out, this talented quintet may be able to craft something worth listening to more than once.
They took a big step towards recognition with the release of Lullabies For a Dormant Mind
. Although their sophomore effort still had its flaws, it showed that at least they were trying to do something great, and shift their sound from the doldrums of a brand of metal being brought to its knees. Now in 2012, their development as a band and as individual musicians has culminated in an excellent record, oozing with inspiration from a plethora of genres, such as melodeath, thrash and progressive metal. The song writing on “Prisoners” has improved tenfold from their debut, with creatively structured tracks like “Your Coming With Me”, “Predator and Prayer”, “Anxious Darwinians” and “Ideomotor”. They take the metalcore rulebook and proceed to burn and defile it, with songs on this album baring little resemblance to the typical verse-chorus stylings of their original material.
The technicality and instrumentation on Prisoners
is also a massive step-up, not only from their debut, but also this album’s immediate predecessor. The pummeling riff on “Lonely Solipsist” (one of the album’s numerous highlights) is but one of many examples of The Agonist’s undeniably catchy yet intricate instrumentation. The guitar work on “Everybody Wants You (Dead)” is also very impressive, while Danny still persists with his punchy, infectious riffs, his work is complimented by Paco Jobin’s excellent lead work. But as ever, the highlight of this release is Alyssa White-Gluz’ signature vocals. While obviously gaining a shi
t-tonne of attention due to the fact that she’s ridiculously hot, she proves that her place in the band is also well warranted, musically. Her growls rival some of the genre’s best male vocals, and her clean singing finally sounds as if it’s found its place among all the blast beats and savagery from the guitars. The scolding lyrics only add to the whole experience, though they occasionally delve into pretentiousness. Her best vocal work can be found on songs such as “The Escape”, “Anxious Darwinians” and the closer “Revenge of The Diadists”.
In closing, “Prisoners” is a fantastic record, its only immediate flaw being that its quirkiness could drive away some listeners, such as Alyssa’s unusual clean vocal delivery, the lyrics and the slightly odd structure some of the longer tracks. The Agonist have produced an absolute gem regardless, and I would recommend it to anyone who considers themselves a fan of the lighter side of extreme metal.