Originally slated for release in November last year, The Agonist's long awaited follow-up album to 2012's 'Prisoners', and their first to showcase the singing talents of new vocalist Vicky Psarakis, 'Eye of Providence' experienced an unexplained and somewhat frustrating three month delay in Century Media's release schedule. However, February 2015 is set to be an occasion for fans of these uber talented Canadians to rejoice across the globe, as a full platter of brand new material is finally upon us. And the thirteen songs that constitute this quite wondrous work of metal ingenuity shine in every possible way and, collectively, demonstrate a different kind of diversity for the band.
I adored 'Prisoners' upon its release (and 'Lullabies for the Dormant Mind'), the former being one of the most innovatively accomplished metal records of the twenty first century. However, for a band who are, in essence, a genuinely progressive one, it would've been against their own ethos and sonic persuasions if they'd made 'Prisoners Part 2'. Far from succumbing to an anti-progressive paradox of replicating the compositionally batty prowess of that 2012 beast, they've embarked on a naturally tangential progression that has resulted in, dare I say, songwriting that's more astutely accessible.
I sincerely hope people don't perceive this as a watered-down version of The Agonist as, quite the contrary, this is the band at their most expansive. Mood-wise, the album has probably far more depth than previous releases; at least in the sense that ideas within songs have been afforded far more breathing space so that the varied mood-driven impetus of each passage of music is given time to develop and allows the potential for a longer lasting affect on the listener, as opposed to succinct blasts of guttural heaviness. There still are bursts of crazily cacophonic extremity, of course, but in a more naturally posited manner as each song fluently unfolds within its own spatially capacious parameters.
So what exactly did I mean by "a different kind of diversity"? Well, it's almost as if they've stabilised their diversity without compromising any of the innovatory essence for which they've become known. 'Prisoners' attained a perfect fusion between elements of controlled metal cacophony and harmonious euphony, all wrapped up in songs that trod a bold and brave interweaving path of stylistic heterogeneity. This time, the diversity's still there but in the sense of a refined diversity; it's now more diverse between songs rather than within songs. The band's innovative proclivities are well and truly intact, just in a far more consolidated way, rather than a bombardment of sonic disparity within the context of a single composition.
And what of their new Greek-born, Stateside-based frontwoman? I can say with total confidence that Vicky's vocals are simply stunning throughout the album. She nails it in every song, be it through her strikingly incisive growls or wide ranging clean voice, this girl's singing carries and conveys befittingly moving depths to accentuate the moods already inherent in the music. It's the silver lining for those who mourned Alissa White-Gluz absonding to front Arch Enemy. For while Alissa succumbed to an unrefusable offer at the expense of being forced to delimit her creativity, it's transpired that The Agonist have benefitted tenfold. The evidence is here on 'Eye of Providence'. It's almost as if they've returned with a renewed vigour. Each and every band member excels themselves here - Danny Marino and Pascal "Paco" Jobin's varied fretboard vocabulary remains an engaging and thrilling listen throughout; sticksman Simon McKay provides his most expressive and stylistically broad drumming performance to date; while Chris Kells' intelligent bass licks and generally solid playing astounds. Collectively, The Agonist are one of metal's most exhilarating and emotionally profound listens. And with Chris Donaldson returning to produce once again, the Cryptopsy axeman has also excelled himself, affording his fellow Canadians their best sounding record thus far.
I could continue rambling on for a while longer here and start delving into the merits of individual tracks; however, 'Eye of Providence' needs to be digested as a whole to fully embrace, appreciate, and feel the innate affections of its intended emotional journey. And it's an emotional journey that'll leave you elated and energised, and one that you'll no doubt be left wanting to repeat again and again. I can give no higher praise than that, thus I can offer no less than full marks for 'Eye of Providence'. Album of the year? Too early to say? Of course it is, but it'll take something truly special to top the might of this unmitigated masterpiece.
EYE OF PROVIDENCE
Review by Mark Holmes
23rd Feb 2015
1) Gates of Horn and Ivory
2) My Witness Your Victim
3) Danse Macabre; 4) I Endeavor
5) Faceless Messenger
6) Perpetual Notion; 7) A Necessary Evil
8) Architects Hallucinate
9) Disconnect Me
10) The Perfect Embodiment
11) A Gentle Disease
12) Follow the Crossed Line
13) As Above So Below
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...the thirteen songs that constitute this quite wondrous work of metal ingenuity shine in every possible way and, collectively, demonstrate a different kind of diversity for the band."