Album Review: The Agonist - "Eye Of Providence"

I've got some good news and bad news for fans of the Canadian metal band The Agonist. Lead singer and founding member Alissa White-Gluz has departed the group to take over lead vocalist duties for Arch Enemy. But I said there's good news! She has been replaced by the outstanding Vicky Psarakis on the latest release from The Agonist, "Eye Of Providence".

As I mentioned, The Agonist is from Canada. Montreal, Quebec, to be more specific. Frankly, I haven't heard this kind of intensity from a Canadian metal band since Annihilator. But The Agonist is even heavier, if you can believe it. They lean more toward the melodic-death-metal side of things and by "lean" I mean they are in the thick of it.

This five piece has been doing their thing since 2004 and has released three studio albums and a couple of EPs in that time. "Eye Of Providence" is number four. The Agonist is made up of the aforementioned Vicky Psarakis on vocals as well as Danny Marino on guitars, bassist Chris Kells, guitarist Pascal "Paco" Jobin and drummer Simon McKay.

The most attention will surely be paid to Psarakis as she is the newest member of the group and the front person. And with good reason. As a vocalist, she does not disappoint. In fact, she's far from disappointing. She impressed the crap out of me. That's a technical term, by the way.

Call me old-fashioned but I think vocals carry a lot of weight, especially in the wacky world of heavy metal. I've heard my fair share of bands who were terrific... until the singer started singing.

You can hide a sub-par musician back in the mix. You can even fix a drummer who can't keep time with computers and such. But a bad singer... That'll kill you, man.

Furthermore, one of the issues I have with a lot of death-metal bands is, you guessed it, the vocals. Too often the "singer" just "myea, myea, myea"s his way through the songs doing his best Cookie Monster impression (or worse, angry Elmo). In small doses it's tolerable. However, when you (or I) listen to a whole album of it, the screeching takes it's toll.

Fortunately, we have no such issue with "Eye Of Providence". Ms. Psarakis does a stellar job alternating between some really impressive death metal growling and her truly magnificent singing voice.

Of course, Vicky's vocals do not a band make. The rest of the group sails through the complexities of melodic death metal without blinking an eye. The musicianship of The Agonist is extraordinary. Some of the song highlights include "My Witness, Your Victim", "A Necessary Evil" and "The Perfect Embodiment" but make no mistake, in this reviewer's opinion, there's not a bad track on the album.

The duel guitars of Marino and Jobin leave nothing to be desired. The sound, the style and their respective techniques weave a complex tapestry of metal awesomeness. Combining that top notch guitar sound with the thunderous drums of Simon McKay is a match made in death metal heaven... or hell. Whichever.

One of the tracks I feel compelled to mention is the song "A Gentle Disease". I single this one out because not only is it the one track where Psarakis uses exclusively clean vocals but it also showcases the superior bass work of Chris Kells. Contained within this cut is a bass breakdown that makes me wish I had spent more time practicing when I was younger. Let's hear it for the oft overlooked bassist.

"Eye Of Providence" is a 13 track album that I could listen to over and over without tiring of it... and I did. So dynamic are the vocals of Vicky Psarakis that they'll not only keep you entertained but make you wonder how she transitions so seamlessly from one extreme style to the other. Overall, The Agonist has created something pretty awesome with "Eye Of Providence". Good luck to Alissa White-Gluz and Arch Enemy but their gain is also The Agonist's gain. Fans should not despair. I have no doubt they will be thrilled with her replacement. Welcome to the show Vicky. Nice job.



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