The Agonist – Prisoners (Century Media Records)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Lots to digest with Prisoners, which is odd for a lot of us since most bands of the female-fronted ilk don’t necessarily cause anyone to split hairs. It’s like the stuff was created to be so disposable that the only lasting impression is bust size. Given that this is a male-dominated listening market, it’s hard to fault such a marketing approach, which puts a band like The Agonist on the outside looking in. Prisoners is so bogged down with ideas and swagger, that it almost makes one forget that there’s a chick out front. Almost.

Like 2009’s Lullabies For the Dormant MindPrisoners takes a Euro thrash approach, with singer Allisa White-Gluz and her myriad of vocals doing most of the moving and shaking. White-Gluz may not be as discernible as she could be (blame the relentless cramming of syllables into each stanza), but she displays a wide range on jams like “Predator and Prayer,” and album standout “Ideamotor.” Beyond that, she’s the album’s perpetual needle-pusher, responsible for keeping the band off the melodic death metal fringe, in addition to having the occasional high-wire vocal moment on “The Mass of the Earth.”

Prisoners certainly has more melodies than its predecessor, as heard on “You’re Coming With Me” (love the closing lead) and “Dead Ocean,” which is probably the band’s biggest sonic adventure, with mounds of post-metal riffs and acoustic guitars underneath a driving tempo. “Revenge of the Dadaists” follows suit with a similar approach with expansive acoustic interludes to perfectly supplement White-Gluz’s heroic female holler.

A bit of a wild-card The Agonist are, for on one hand, White-Gluz has the makings of a breakout star (see: her work with PETA and a recent appearance on MTV’s Made). On the other, their intensive, relatively extreme brand of melo-thrash keeps them in sights of the underground, so much so that they’re commercial appeal has a sort of ying and yang to it. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of guts to what The Agonist is doing on Prisoners…it sort of makes bands like In This Moment and Straight Line Stitch seem like child’s play.

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