September 17, 2019 The Agonist – Orphans (Album Review)
After being formed in 2004, Canadian Metal band The Agonist made their debut in 2007 with Once Only Imagined. The group then went on to release four more albums over the next nine years, ranging from 2009’s Lullabies for the Dormant Mind to 2016’s Five. Along the way, the band have shared stages with everyone from Epica to Chelsea Grin. Now, continuing to destroy the formula and reinvigorate all things heavy, they present their sixth full-length, Orphans, releasing Friday, September 20, 2019 via Napalm Records.
Vicky Psarakis’ vocals are like a siren’s song rising up from the depths in the introductory track “In Vertigo.” The song revels in a chaotic wonderland of layered, operatic choruses, shrieking, eclectic guitar work, and merciless growls that spit lyrics like “Wake up to see the tiny world at your feet.” The entire track is a twisted reminisce of Alice down the rabbit hole, executed with undeniable precision and tact. “As One We Survive” is fueled by rapid fire drumming and a grinding guitar rhythm. Guitarists Danny Marino and Pascal Jobin slaughter the latter half of the track all the way to the outro, chugging away to light the fire. The poignant lyrical content rides all the way to its cataclysmic height where Psarakis’ clean vocals overpower with haunting lines of survival of the fittest.
While “Blood As My Guide” births a different soul than its counterparts, it is an inarguably stand-out track. The song comes off as a brutal combination of Power and Death Metal ballad, and there’s an empowering energy that flows through the speeding pace, even the somewhat foreseeable guitar solo. When the track slows and takes a breath to allow the instrumental to build an Olympic rhythm together, and Psarakis begins intoning in her native Greek, it comes together for a truly distinctive moment. “A Devil Made Me Do It” is pure deviant speed and ferocity in between trenchant lyrics such as “I’ll take your unwillingness and make you crumble.” Meanwhile, the title track “Orphans” is a regressive fairytale with whirring guitar work, crisp drumming, and brusque vocals.
Psarakis refuses to back down from any variation of vocal performance, whether it be a stupefying belt like in the intro to “The Gift of Silence,” breathtaking classical style vocals, or her severe ‘unclean’ vocals. She is a master of her own instrument just as her bandmates. Throughout the collection, there’s an authentic exploration into differing genetic traits with tracks like “Mr. Cold,” a song that has a grittier Rock sound to it alongside fun, devilish prose.
Some of beginnings of these tracks can be deceiving, as with a bit more listen the song evolves into a dynamic juggernaut; therefore, there is nothing dull or generic about Orphans. In a sea of formulaic, overproduced Rock and Metal, The Agonist have truly created something exciting and spirited. For this, Cryptic Rock rates Orphans 5 out of 5 stars.