Released: 2009, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
When Montreal’s The Agonist burst on the scene two years with its debut, ONCE ONLY IMAGINED, the record’s sound drew instant comparisons to labelmates In This Moment. Not that it was a bad thing but The Agonist seemed to get swallowed up by the many similarities and got labeled as coattail riders, albeit talented ones.
The songwriting in the two years since we last heard from The Agonist has improved significantly—no doubt thanks to the endless touring the band took on in support of that record—giving LULLABIES FOR THE DORMANT MIND strong potential for greater staying power and certainly its own unique identity. Gone are the loathsome parallels. Instead, The Agonist has grown into its sound on the sophomore record. At the forefront, vocalist Alissa White-Gluz is the dynamic that holds this band together. Her vicious vocal arsenal runs the gamut from guttural growls to blackened shrieks to a pinched (and less effective) clean vocal. On songs like “Martyr Art,” layered vocals back White-Gluz, giving the songs a symphonic edge. The real showcase for White-Gluz’s vocals can be found in the acapella version of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake, Op. 20 – Scene, Act 2, #10.” The operatic intro is impressive enough but as the song progresses, layer upon layer of White-Gluz’s soaring voice combine to form a choir effect reminiscent of bands like Therion. Throughout the record, guitarist Danny Marino (nephew of Mahogany Rush axe legend, Frank Marino) contributes some snazzy guitar runs that—thankfully—bypass the Swedish melodic death bands that 99% of other metalcore denizens ride into the ground. Instead, well-written licks populate the songs, bridging the gap between melodic and heavy, and sticking around a bit longer than those found on ONCE ONLY IMAGINED. “The Tempest (The Siren's Song; The Banshee's Cry)” and “When The Bough Breaks” are chock full of monster grooves that draw from thrash and straightforward blistering metal. Backed by a speedy tempo, “Thank You, Pain,” perhaps the most immediately accessible track here, bubbles with a memorable chorus and a slick guitar solo ripe for video treatment.
Environmentally-conscious, socially-aware and engagingly packaged, The Agonist has begun to distance itself from the flood of female-fronted metal bands on LULLABIES FOR THE DORMANT MIND. This record is infinitely better than the band’s debut and while certainly still finding its way, The Agonist has confirmed they are more than just a flash-in-the-pan looking to capitalize on current trends. Whether through her vocal skills or splashed across fleshy photo spreads, a lot of attention has been focused on Alissa White-Gluz but look for The Agonist to finally make its mark with LULLABIES FOR THE DORMANT MIND based more on its musical merit than the fact the “Hottest Chick in Metal” is fronting the band.
KILLER KUTS: “The Tempest (The Siren's Song; The Banshee's Cry),” “Thank You, Pain,” “Martyr Art,” “Swan Lake, Op. 20 – Scene, Act 2, #10,” “When The Bough Breaks”