Over three years have passed since Canada's The Agonist delivered their sophomore album, 'Lullabies for the Dormant Mind', so there's been something of a wait for 'Prisoners', their third full-length studio effort. Well, there was last year's two track EP, 'The Escape', of course but a full platter of new material has been a long time coming. However, as a virtue of patience, the age-old adage of "good things come to those who wait" has never been more pertinent. In fact, with the release of 'Prisoners', it's more a case of very fucking marvellous things have been brought to those who've waited ever so patiently.
Renowned for their complex arrangements which encompass a wide array of metal subgenres as well as subtle flirtations with other stylistic deviations, The Agonist's overall soundscape has always been a challenging listen through its sonic iconoclasm as much as it has an exhilaratingly accessible one. 'Prisoners' is no exception; however, this time, while the technicality of the musicianship is more emphatically thrilling than on their previous two albums, they've still succeeded in perpetuating aural accessibility by exercising their virtuosity within the context of some skilfully composed songs.
In one sense, perhaps on just a surface level, the wildly technical instrumentations collectively built up by guitarists Danny Marino and Pascal "Paco" Jobin, bassist Chris Kells and sticksman Simon McKay are covert within the listening experience, such is the accessibility of the music. But, in another sense, listen below the surface, maybe by concentrating on individual instruments, and the high skill level and innovative proclivities of these players are there to be heard. As such, 'Prisoners' is an album with so much depth; a sonic abyss of transcendent technicality and musical innovation.
And I haven't even mentioned Alissa White-Gluz yet, a philosophically intelligent lyricist who delivers her death growls and clean vocals with equal efficacy. Of course, the clarity of words is often lost through her rasped death voice so a lyric sheet is essential during these moments but she oozes passionately sincere intent in her delivery to convey cognitively stirring provocations through metaphorical and literal critiques - sometimes, poetically provocative and, at other times, through scathingly blatant narratives.
The overall sound of 'Prisoners' is rather magnificent too, produced with an adept hand by guitarist Christian Donaldson from Canadian comrades Cryptopsy and mixed by Danish knob twiddler Tue Madsen. With a fully resonant sound that's aptly captured, and effectively conveys, the down-tuned sonics, Donaldson has done a fine job here although full praise must also go to Madsen - considering the layered complexity of the compositions and arrangements, the mix is incredible.
So why have I raved about 'Prisoners' so much and not scored it higher than nine? Well, an ever-evolving/improving band, as evidenced on this latest offering, I firmly believe that we have yet to hear their best. However, 'Prisoners' comes pretty damn close to the perfect extreme metal record and, by that, I mean extreme in all senses - extremely technical; extremely heavy; extremely good; extremely well produced/mixed; extremely provocative; extremely well composed...etc... Go check it out now!
Review by Mark Holmes
4th June 2012
1) You're Coming With Me
2) The Escape
3) Predator and Prayer
4) Anxious Darwinians
7) Lonely Solipsist
8) Dead Ocean
9) The Mass of the Earth
10) Everybody Wants You "Dead"
11) Revenge of the Dadiasts
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a sonic abyss of transcendent technicality and musical innovation."