Review Summary: An album almost as astounding as the level of progress made by the band itself.
This female-fronted Canadian band have always seemed to give the impression that they have bucket loads of talent, but couldn’t seem to find a way to break free of the flaws that largely plagued bands in 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 some untapped potential. Songs like “Rise and Fall”, “Take a Bow” and the single, “Business Suits and Combat Boots” stood out for being properly good songs in an unremarkable album. If The Agonist were only 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 by a bunch of up and coming bands trying to outdo each other, but ultimately producing the exact same records.
Now in 2012, their development as a band and as individual musicians has culminated in a brilliant 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 beautifully 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 barring almost no resemblance to the universal “intro-verse-chorus-verse-breakdown-chorus” structure 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 pummelling riff on one of the many highlights in this record “Lonely Solipsist” is a thing of exquisite beauty and an absolute pleasure to listen to, even while it’s being played over the top of a breakdown (yes, there’s still breakdowns) at the end of the song. The guitar work on “Everybody Wants You (Dead)” is also nothing short of extraordinary, while Danny still persists with his punchy, head-banging riffs, his work is excellently complimented by Paco Jobin’s extraordinary lead work, giving the song an almost euphoric feeling while still feeling brutally heavy.
But as ever, the highlight of this release is the vocals, those incredible vocals. Alyssa White-Gluz, while obviously gaining a s**t-tonne of attention due to the fact that she’s smoking hot, proves that her place in the band is 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, when she comes in firing on all cylinders, screaming “God is a man-made invention to allocate power and responsibility to a tactile body” you know she means it. Her best vocal work can be found on songs such as “The Escape”, “Anxious Darwinians” and the frankly epic closer in “Revenge of The Diadists”.
In closing, “Prisoners” is an absolutely fantastic record, its only real flaw being that it's 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.
4 stars out of 5.
[How you pick favourites in album of nothing but highlights?]