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Monday 21st October 2013
The Kazimier in Liverpool, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Missing the opening two bands through interviewing and other commitments, my first real taste of tonight's five band multinational bill is Finnish melo-death crew Mors Principium Est. With a stage presence as buoyantly dynamic as the up-tempo, catchy impetus of their music, it's not long before a number of the respectably sized crowd gathered in The Kazimier are incited into vigorous pit activity. And although respectable in size, a small contingent of said crowd are way from respectful in behaviour; flailing and pushing each other into those who've chosen not to participate. Note to pitters: start a pit, have fun, it's a metal gig after all; however, please show a little more respect towards those who want to watch the bands, particularly when you encroach on the space of people who are nowhere near the pit nucleus (ie. pushing pitters into punters who are stood watching bands from the back of the venue is in no way cool). Still, Mors Principium Est frontman Ville Viljanen seems chuffed at the audience reaction as they plough through their short set. There's nothing ground-breaking here, and it's ever so generic, but when genericism is executed on the live stage this well, and with an energetic performance to boot, this Finnish bunch are a nice addition to the bill.
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Prior to tonight's main attraction, The Agonist's fellow countrymen, Threat Signal, take to the stage to serve up a support-sized portion of their forceful, thrash-fuelled quasi-tech metal discharge. And they do so with convincing gusto and an incisively tight delivery. For some reason, though, and I'm unsure if it's because their performance is a little too polished, their music, this evening, leaves me cold. And that seems to be a sentiment reflected within the crowd en masse as tonight's gig goers are discernibly more subdued than they were for Mors Principium Est. Ultimately, I find it difficult to engage emotionally in any small way with Threat Signal's music in Liverpool and, despite frontman Jon Howard's commanding stage presence, the band are more perfunctory than preponderant. Maybe my mood isn't geared towards their songs this evening... and that old philosophical question of whether music creates or feeds your mood; well, for me watching Threat Signal in action, I'm afraid to say neither. Indifference would be an apposite description. Judging by between-song applause, a large portion of the audience does seem to connect more with the Canadians so it seems I'm in a minority... or simply more difficult to impress.
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The Agonist at The Kazimier in Liverpool, UK, 21st October 2013
Photograph copyright 2013 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Winding up their European tour on UK soil with three rare dates over here, and their first since 2010, The Agonist commence their sonically innovative assault on old Blighty in Liverpool's The Kazimier. To be honest, I'd expected a larger turnout, such is the rarity of the band's live shows in this country, although the venue is, at least, occupied by a decent sized audience, particularly for a Monday evening. And there's an air of eager anticipation prior to their appearance amongst an expectant gathering, who are evidently here to relish every moment of this rare opportunity to witness, first-hand, The Agonist in live action.

Casually wandering out onto the stage, the five Canadians are greeted with ubiquitous cheers and, with no band backdrop behind them - rather, just the venue's red curtain - there's an unpretentious, no-frills vibe to proceedings. However, the thrills are saved for the music and its concomitant delivery which manifests in a stimulating set of compositions from each of their three albums to date. Opening with 'You're Coming With Me' from last year's sublimely technical 'Prisoners', The Agonist proceed to fill the venue with their sonic virtuosity and transcendent metal aesthetic. It's an utter joy to witness the band's technical mastery of their instruments and those present are treated to displays of truly remarkable musicianship. Beyond that, this is not mere individualistic virtuosity; The Agonist, as a collective live unit, are a virtuosic band par excellence.

The set progresses with the more immediately accessible 'Thank You, Pain' and 'Panophobia' before they air the likes of 'Born Dead: Buried Alive', 'Ideomotor', '...and Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep', 'The Tempest (The Siren's Song; The Banshee's Cry)', 'Predator and Prayer', 'Rise and Fall', 'The Escape', 'Dead Ocean' and 'Business Suits and Combat Boots'. And The Agonist have adopted the true essence of music within their songwriting and its execution - it's simultaneously exhilarating while shifting between moods and emotions with progressively natural ease. Alissa White-Gluz's ardently affective vocal performance is a pivotal impetus in the songs' changing moods; she sings with a zealous intensity, be it through her clean or growled delivery, to convey, with unremitting conviction, her lyrical rebuttals and critiques of global injustice, prejudice and inhumane malice.

With a compelling and commanding performance in Liverpool, I'm pleased to report that The Agonist are not only one of the most important metal bands to emerge during the last decade through their recorded output, but are also one of the best live acts on the touring circuit. I only hope that the parameters of their own touring circuit are extended more often to include the UK. Within a scene that's all too often characterised by stagnant generic mimicry, metal iconoclasts such as The Agonist are few and far between. Let's hope their next visit to these shores is rather soon.
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