The Agonist – Eye of Providence (Century Media)Thursday, 5th February 2015
It was quite the shake-up last year when now-former vocalist Alissa White-Gluz announced she was joining Arch Enemy. The Agonist fired back not too shortly thereafter with new vocalist Vicky Psarakis in hand (not to mention a rough version of “Disconnect Me”). With a short delay from November of last year, long-time fans have been kept on edge wondering what The Agonist would come up with after these transitions. Short answer: it was worth the wait.
As previous album Prisoners was one of the strongest albums of 2012 (to these ears anyways), the bar was set quite high for Eye of Providence. Where Prisoners was a bit chaotic at points, with some frenzied transitions, Eye of Providence sees the band dialing it back a bit and really focusing on “the song”. The Agonist is still just as diverse as they’ve always been, if not more so, but they stick with a feeling for an entire song as opposed to having “moments.” From the visceral aggression of “Gates of Horn and Ivory” (that opening is just wicked) to the dark and almost-jazzy vibe of the ballad “A Gentle Disease” to the rock-ish approach of “The Perfect Embodiment,” there’s plenty to explore upon repeated listens. An often under-appreciated aspect of the band has been their guitar work, and the duo of Danny Marino and Pascal “Paco” Jobin again offer a bounty of wicked melodies (“I Endeavor”), breakneck riffs (“Follow the Crossed Line”), and solo work (“Danse Macabre”), yet are able to rein things in and let atmosphere lead on other tracks (“As Above, So Below”).
Of course, mention must be made to new vocalist Vicky Psarakis. Replacing a high-profile vocalist like White-Gluz is never easy, yet Psarakis does it with grace throughout Eye of Providence. With a dynamic range capable of belting out some killer screams alongside soulful and powerful melodic singing, she easily fits into the diverse palette of The Agonist. This is best heard in “Faceless Messenger,” which gives her the opportunity to do a little bit of everything with her voice – whether it’s a charismatic clean vocal chorus, a menacing snarl, or some soft, ethereal backing towards the end of the track, it’s clear that The Agonist can continue to expand their approach with Psarakis at the mic.
With a renewed focus and revitalized approach, The Agonist have no problem smashing the lofty expectations set before them. Eye of Providence captures everything one would like to hear in melodic metal and then some. Lock this one in as the one to beat so far in 2015.