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‘Orphans’ is album number six from Canada’s The Agonist, and their third to feature the vocal talents of Vicky Psarakis. I’ll keep this review brief-ish. Why? Well, I usually have, if anything, too much to say about each new The Agonist album in my reviews… I mean, their perennially exhilarating and genuinely progressive tech metal output is loaded with a compositional and emotional breadth and depth that’s all too rare in a scene where so many bands seem more than happy to adhere to genre stagnancy and musical banality. Stagnancy and banality are words that can never be appropriated to describe The Agonist. They have been, and remain on ‘Orphans’, one of metal’s most exciting, original acts.

So, why do I have so little to say? Well, ‘Orphans’ has been provided for review as just an audio stream… and it generally sounds pants. Total pants. The kind of stuff to make audiophiles cringe with utter abhorrence. The stream wavers all over the place and with a kind of muffled filter throughout, rendering it impossible to judge the overall production merits of ‘Orphans’. I’m used to reviewing from high quality audio files or CDs. Most labels provide such. Wisely so, as they’d naturally want reviewers to be hearing as close as possible to how each band’s music should sound. Not the case here it seems, and it’s to the detriment of the music. A travesty! I usually stay well clear of dodgy, low bitrate streams, but it’s The Agonist, a band so important to the continued evolution and progression of the metal genre, that they’ll always have my undying support. So, I’ll briefly comment on the compositions themselves, and not how they sound.

Bottom-line - there’s a ton of stuff here that harks back to their earlier sense of controlled chaos, almost like a natural continuation of some of the material on ‘Prisoners’, and all topped off with the wonderfully diversified, emotionally fuelled vocals of Psarakis, from cleans to well-pitched growls. And that’s only part of the story. The diversified sense of compositional progression The Agonist have continued to follow over the course of their previous works is also present here. So, imagine ‘Prisoners’ era stuff, but more diverse and with a greater stylistic scope, and progressed into even more exhilarating sonic territory. That’s what we have with ‘Orphans’. Oh, and the musicianship is off the scale of virtuosic awesomeness. In particular, Simon McKay’s utterly excelled himself here, with a drumming performance that combines crazily cacophonic highs with a refined sense of ever-interesting fills and other rhythms that ride the waves of guitar riffage and widdle. Danny Marino and Pascal "Paco" Jobin’s fretboard mastery is breathtaking. The precision of all the wild widdle; the seemingly inhuman speed of passages of picked arpeggios; inventive solos; and incisive, engaging riffage - these two guys prove themselves, once again, up there with the very best guitarists within the entire metal genre… ever. And Chris Kells’ resplendent bass work adds all the right resonant depth in all the right places. All in all, a very easy 10/10 from me (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that the production is actually great, too).
Rodeostar Records
Review by Mark Holmes
20th Sept 2019
1) In Vertigo
2) As One We Survive
3) The Gift of Silence
4) Blood as My Guide
5) Mr Cold
6) Dust to Dust
7) A Devil Made Me Do It
8) The Killing I
9) Orphans
10) Burn It All Down
"... imagine ‘Prisoners’ era stuff, but more diverse and with a greater stylistic scope, and progressed into even more exhilarating sonic territory. That’s what we have with ‘Orphans’."