The Agonist // Prisoners
Rating: 2.0/5.0 – Better than you’d expect from Canadian vegan metalcore
Label: Century Media
Websites: myspace.com  |  facebook.com
Release Dates:  Out now!

When an album lands in my inbox accompanied by an apology from Angry Metal Guy himself, you know it’s gonna be a rough listen. And on the surface, The Agonist’s new record Prisoners didn’t look promising: A so-called metalcore band from Canada, fronted by Alyssa White-Gluz, a former Canadian Idol contestant and one of Revolver Magazine’s “Hottest Chicks in Metal.” And as if that wasn’t discouraging enough, White-Gluz is also an animal-rights activist who has been heavily involved with PETA. That means this is the second review I’ve done this month of bands that want me to stop eating veal.  Not off to a good start here, guys.

Stylistically, metalcore is a pretty apt description of The Agonist, although they’re very progressive and diverse for that genre. Still, they’re pretty representative of the entire inner conflict with metalcore, which is this: no matter how hard these bands want to sound like ‘true’ metal, they’re still part of a style dependent on melodic, mall-ready choruses and ridiculous overproduction. Even if the guitarists and drummer in the band want you to know how much they love Testament/Emperor/Suffocation/whoever, the catchy parts of the song inevitably sound like they belong on…well, Canadian Idol or something.

“You’re Coming With Me,” the first track on Prisoners, sums up the musical tug-of-war perfectly. After a short acoustic intro, the song kicks into some pseudo-black metal riffage, complete with White-Gluz turning in some rasps that would make Abbath proud. It’s actually pretty kickass, but just when you start thinking “hey, maybe these guys aren’t poseurs after all,” the chorus shows up, straight from Hot Topic. The exact lyric is “I’m going straight to hell/and you’re coming with me.” Bleh. Besides the fact that only King Diamond could pull off that line with dignity intact, the real problem is that this has just turned into a radio-ready pop song, polished and produced to perfection. Whatever intensity existed until this point has just been completely undone. The rest of the album has the same effect to varying degrees – you’re headbanging to the riffs, then wincing when the chorus comes.

The band itself is rock-solid though, and they do their best to keep the album interesting. The band manages to incorporate Opeth-style acoustics (“Dead Ocean”), latter-day Strapping Young Lad rants (“Predator and Prayer”) and a general black metal influence throughout. As musicians, these guys fucking rip. Guitarist Danny Marino is capable of some classy lead work (he better be, his uncle is the legendary Frank Marino), and I was impressed with bassist Chris Kells as well. The vocals might not be for everybody, but I can confidently say that the music here is actually pretty solid.

The truth is that regardless of how heavy the band wants to be, White-Gluz is from the same high school drama club as Maria Brink from In This Moment, or even Amy Lee from Evanescence. She may be able to do some screaming, but her clean vocals are so pop that she makes Adele sound like Darkthrone. I guess the male equivalent would be that guy who used to sing for Scar Symmetry. Yes, he’s talented – extremely so. But the guy’s clean vocals were so slick, so overdone, that it actually made everything else about the band sound cheesy and considerably less heavy. And The Agonist is guilty of this same sin.

Still, still band deserves credit for doing some interesting things here, and White-Gluz’s vocals are admirable for their versatility, if nothing else (I honestly thought there was a second vocalist at first). And for whatever it’s worth, the songs actually get weirder and more progressive towards the end, which is a good thing. But overall, if you’re not a fan of slick, overproduced pop-metal, this is probably not your cup o’ tea bag o’ meat. Now for fuck’s sake, where are all the bands that are pro-meat eating? Carnivore, maybe?

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  • Zadion

    Did I just see you refer to Christian Alvestam under a negative context?

    Son, I am disappoint.

    • I’m not a fan of Älvestam at all. Super overrated, IMO. 

  • Damn. The Last couple of reviews have been kinda shittin’ on bands. Oh well…

    So how ’bout that “Clockwork Angels?”

  • Yeah. The fuck man. Dude can SING.

  • Hahaha funnily enough this is one of the bands that got me into metal a few years ago… Needless to say I grew out of them, but it’s still amusingto see a 2/5. You reference Canadian Idol, did you know Alyssa was on that, or was that just a coincidence? 

    • Zadion

      “A so-called metalcore band from Canada, fronted by Alyssa White-Gluz, a former Canadian Idol contestant…”

      So yeah, I’d say he knew. lol

  • Thanks for reviewing but…the fuck? This review seems totally biased to me. It seems that you’re basically saying: Its actually pretty fucking good and these guys have some serious skill, but because Alissa was on Canadian Idol, and some choruses use clean vocals (which doesnt make something poppy, and radio friendly?? really??), and because they are labeled as metalcore, that it sucks? Come on man…

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      I found out about the Canadian Idol thing until AFTER I listened to the record and started working on the review, but you’ve got to admit it explains a lot. What I was getting at is that no matter how heavy/original/good the rest of the band tries to be, these cheeseball choruses ruin it. 

      And my apologies to any Scar Symmetry fans out there…i can tell you guys are pissed off.

      • Zadion

         Not me, man. I don’t get pissed over a review. We all have opinions, and I openly encourage expressing them.

        I just happen to highly disagree with your opinion on that matter. Especially when Alyssa White-Gluz is a terrible vocalist in comparison, IMO. Especially her scream. Eugh.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          Agreed wholeheartedly — the Scar Symmetry dude is an infinitely better vocalist. I was just trying to make a comparison as to the overall effect. 

      • Hehe, yeah i geuss the review kind of pissed me off, but no harsh feelings eh :p
        If its just the music that isnt doing it for you, then I respect that, becuase everyone has different taste.
        As long as its the MUSIC that isnt doing it you know? And not the lives that the musicians lead or their past, or what its labeled as. Because thats not being fair to the music I think.
        And indeed metalcore has a tendency to overproduce clean vocals tremendously, which is a reason why I hate most metalcore bands, but I dont find that to be the case with the Agonist.
        Sorry if I came across as arrogant or intolerable, I like to think metalheads are better than that m/

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          It’s all good, man. Joking aside, I AM able to listen to bands even if they preach vegetarianism (see: Carcass). My whole point was that 4/5ths of the band sound like they’re trying to kick ass, but 1/5th sounds like she’s trying to get on the radio, and that ruins it for me. 

  • MetalWifeLife

     Not sure I understand your rating system of how it’s 2/5 but “pretty solid”, etc. Totally get that you aren’t into the clean vocals or PETA but considering I could paraphrase this review as “the music is good but I find the genre lame”, I think that deserves more than that. Just my two cents!  Otherwise I thought it was a fun review.  Thanks for posting!

  • Pretty much spot on with how I feel. I have heard some people raving about’em like they are the new Arch Enemy, and considering I’m not into Arch Enemy anymore, this simply can’t hold my already short attention span. Also, the militant pro-veganism stuff is even more off-putting than Christan Metal or Vikernes’ white power tirades.

  • Curt77

    Personally I don’t like 90% of metalcore, but for some reason I really liked this album. I thought the band did an admirable job of contrasting hooky and heaviness. Not the type of thing I usually like, but I did like this one.

  • itsmydamnation

    The agonist is a funny band, i dont think i have ever read a positive review, yet there music is awesome  fun to play and there songs on youtube get way more hits then the average metal band.

    maybe its the whole not underground enough for an underground band???

    also in agreement that your own review doesn’t match the score.  i haven’t had time to listen to this album yet im guessing i wont like it as i didn’t like their second album much.