Review Summary: Talent begins to lose direction.
The Agonist is one of the most interesting metal bands in recent years. They blend various genres of extreme metal together while mixing in subtle doses of melody and diverse instrumentation, making each record its own unique release. Despite the lukewarm reception to their debut Once Only Imagined
, the album remained an interesting and different take on their genre. Since then they’ve increased tempos, upped the instrumental technicality, and propelled to mainstream recognition in the metal world. The charisma and impressive vocal range of frontwoman and animal activist Alissa White-Gluz had no small part in their success. Each album proved to be better than the last, and they seemed to only improve compositionally and conceptually with each release. Out of nowhere, White-Gluz would replace Arch Enemy’s vocalist Angela Gossow in early 2014, suddenly leaving The Agonist without a frontwoman. They quickly found a replacement, then unknown singer Vicky Psarakis. Eye of Providence
is a new album from a changed band, and shouldn’t necessarily be compared to previous releases in determining its quality, especially in the face of such tumultuous events. One can’t help but notice, however, that Eye of Providence
essentially sounds like a melodic metalcore band trying to write music in the vein of The Agonist. Diversity pops up once in a while, but it feels contrived and forced. Gone are the extended acoustic guitar sections from Prisoners
, or the abundance of theatrical vocal and instrumental quirks found throughout Lullabies…
. Instead we get The Agonist playing it safe. While Eye of Providence
can’t be called a bad release, it remains merely sporadically enjoyable.
The most disappointing aspect of Eye…
is how it regresses most of the progress The Agonist had made with albums like 2009’s Lullabies for the Dormant Mind
and 2012’s Prisoners
, by being generic and largely treading old ground. It is mostly a predictable and largely uneventful listen that lacks the charisma and diversity of past material. “I Endeavor” find The Agonist attempting to resurrect their past successes with one of the best melodic choruses found on the album. Guitar tapping is prevalent throughout, and Psarakis showcases impressive alternating vocal styles of harsh growling and some of her best clean vocals put to record. Most of her vocals sound reminiscent of White-Gluz's, but her voice proves her as a solid replacement that sonically fits with the group’s sound well enough. “Disconnect Me” alternates melodeath guitar riffing with a metalcore sounding chorus and an abundance of technical guitar playing. One of the most noticeable aspects of Eye of Providence
is how mechanical the guitars sound. While the playing itself tries hard to be interesting and varied, it never quite reaches its full potential. “Faceless Messenger” is one of the better cuts, with the guitarists showing a surprising amount of restraint. When not trading off solos, they play mysterious sounding guitar chords, nostalgically reminiscent of the more engrossing moments of Prisoners
The Agonist almost seem afraid to continue to evolve from their upward trajectory. “Perpetual Notion” and “The Perfect Embodiment” each have quieter, atmospheric intros that try to shine through the monotonous heaviness, but quickly give in and belt out the metal. The use of variety only seems to have room to breathe in the best song of the album, closer “As Above, So Below.” It begins with ambient guitars quietly strumming, while the percussion lays a progressive off kilter drumbeat. Psarkis gives her most emotional and passioned performance of the album. It gradually builds intensity until the guitars once again quiet down over more attention grabbing vocals. It builds again, then finally climaxes. An ambient guitar and bass provide a haunting collection of final notes before fading the album into silence. The listener can’t help but ask, “Where has the band that wrote this song been for the past twelve tracks?” The Agonist saved almost all of their inspiration and unpredictability found in abundance on past releases for the album closer. What made them so special is scarce on Eye of Providence
, and despite most of the songs holding their own well enough, longtime fans won’t be able to shake the feeling of disappointment of what could have been with the potential of newfound success, and a new vocalist.