The Agonist – Days Before The World Wept
I’ve been very keen on The Agonist for a while now and having listened through a number of their releases, I just get a feeling like they keep getting better and better with every piece of music they put out. 2019’s “Orphans” was without a doubt their strongest release til’ that point and it proved them to be not only very capable musicians, but seriously soulful maniacs, as the album’s concept and emotional delivery was dark, somber and dramatic. Now, the Canadian quintet returns with “Days Before The World Wept”, and despite being just a 5-song EP, I think it might just be their strongest release to date!
Throughout the years, I would say The Agonist always bordered on the extreme sides of metal but also seemed to have some elements that made them more accessible. However, this is the first time I’m willing to describe their sound as fully fledged progressive technical death metal. The outpour of extremity, technical proficiency and unexpected rhythmic shifts that they bring forth on this release is unlike anything they’ve ever done. Not to be confused for a nerd-prog band, despite the added complexity, I think their songwriting has reached a level of maturity that enables them to pull off some absurd twists and acrobatics while maintaining a superbly coherent flow and energy to the music.
The Agonist – Remnants In Time ( Click here if the video does not play )
Looking at Simon Mckay’s drum delivery, I find it difficult to believe this guy has only 4 limbs. The opener ‘Remnants in Time’ displays a ridiculous storm of blast beats, machine-gun-like transitions and alternating hyper-speed grooves that puts him in the spotlight more than any other song on the EP. However, he does not draw attention away from the rest of the band, rather drives them all forward. The riffs are incredibly fluid, keeping up the pace and dynamic with the drum parts and forming a massive wall of melodic yet abrasive sound, going in unison with the grinding drums. I love how they were able to fuse hooky, memorable themes in the tapestry of riff-madness, not even necessarily bringing out any melody, but just keeping wildly inspired harmonies and chord progressions in the groundwork of riffage, such that even the most brutal moments just sound so musical and balanced. Alongside this, the bass pummeling is equally savage, but on this particular release, Chris Kells has gone full tech-death mode, bringing forth the side of fluid bass sound you expect to hear in Beyond Creation or First Fragment yet he still constantly returns to the classic background pounding you hear in more traditional metal soundscapes.
Looking at guitar solos, The Agonist always had Pascal “Paco” Jobin take over the shred-fests while Danny Marino was in charge of the more melodic leads and rhythm section. Which gets me to believe, if they keep the same dynamic going, that he’s hardly putting in any work on lead sections because the amount of mad shredding going on in the solos is off the charts. Surprisingly though, not every song has a solo, only ‘Remnants in Time’ and ‘Feast on The Living’ do, but in the other tracks, we still get these evil tapping or shredding melodies soaring over the riffs from time to time, just to spice things up some more.
The Agonist – Feast on the Living ( Click here if the video does not play )
Compared to a full technical death metal band though, these guys do pace themselves more. On songs like ‘Immaculate Deception’ and ‘Resurrection’ we get some seriously nasty, groovy headbang patterns and on the former, even a proper breakdown, unleashing the filth in undead glory… And speaking of the undead, this brings me to the absolute vocal powerhouse that is Vicky Psarakis, who shows off some insane gutturals in the afore-mentioned breakdown and on several other occasions, but for most of the time, she rests in mid-range and high-pitched screams. Why is she undead you say? Well, my gut tells me she’s in charge of the lyrics, and this particular release seems to have a thing for people coming back from the dead. I wouldn’t be sure but I think we might be looking at a zombie apocalypse style concept, or maybe something even more creative and sinister. Thus, her vocals don’t just sound aggressive and powerful, but in the context of the lyrics and music, downright apocalyptic. The constant shifting between different scream tones is ridiculous and the clean vocal performance has such incredible range, volume and evil charisma that it just creeps under your skin to give you the sweetest, gnarliest serotonin-infused heebee jeebees. It’s kinda like watching an action horror movie with a bag of salted caramel popcorn for emotional comfort, but in the end you’re still on edge. To top it off, the layers of orchestration and backing operatic vocals complete the spectrum of ominous emotions.
Other than the “Oh Holy Breakdown”, moments that require special attention are the use of creepy piano in the start and end of ‘Remnants in Time’, use of clean guitar kicking off ‘Days Before the World Wept’ and the ‘In Vertigo’ reprise in the intro to ‘Feast on the Living’, which has me wondering whether it’s the Orphans from 2019 that eventually perished and came back for revenge. Either way, I ain’t no one’s meal, which is why this is probably a good point to wrap up this review. The Agonist have delivered a sweet dose of explosive musical terror that will make you happy to be scared, now I’ll go get my popcorn.
- Remnants In Time (04:53)
- Immaculate Deception (03:35)
- Resurrection (05:11)
- Feast on the Living (03:22)
- Days Before The World Wept (06:05)