Album Review: The Agonist – “Eye of Providence”

The Agonist
Eye of Providence
(Century Media)

Take away all of the other news-worthy items about Canadian group The Agonist. The only thing that mattered to me was that the band’s previous album, Prisoners, was seriously awesome. It showed that The Agonist wasn’t afraid of being both progressive and hard-hitting. Previous vocalist Alissa Whtie-Gluz was one of those female vocalists that didn’t have to be belittled to be appreciated. There was no asterisk stating that she was only good “for a girl” or whatever. She was good, period, and that’s why Arch Enemy was smart to pick her up. (Interestingly, she was the only good part of an otherwise average album.) Thankfully, The Agonist knows how to snag talented vocalists because new set of pipes Vicky Psarakis has, well, a great set of pipes. Her clean vocals are actually much better than Alissa’s, and her harsh vocals are powerful and clear. So we’re all set for a winning return from The Agonist, right?

Unfortunately, the rest of The Agonist didn’t seem to bring its “A” game. While Prisoners showcased a group that was happy to push metalcore/melodeath conventions (and bring the riffs), Eye of Providence feels rather safe. That’s not to infer that Eye of Providence is in any way a failure. It just feels like a letdown considering the band actually improved vocally and had all the potential to top Prisoners. It feels like going to Omaha and having a burger instead of a steak, or going to Portland and having a boring American lager instead of the myriad of craft options available. The ingredients were there for The Agonist to push to the true upper echelon of modern metal with Eye of Providence, but it feels like the band chose to simply stay afloat.

However, when it works for the band, it really works. “Danse Macabre” has a great hook and one of the few song structures that feels interesting. “Follow the Crossed Line” is the band at its heaviest and most interesting. “A Necessary Evil” might be the best song the band has ever done, with a haunting vocal section that starkly contrast the opening bombast. That song really touches on what makes the album so good and so safe. Where are the guitar solos? Where are the punishing, driving rhythms? What happened to progressive song structures? Clearly the band can still do that with Vicky, as evidenced by the choice cuts, but it’s as if The Agonist chose to ease into this new chapter of the band. It’s an odd choice, especially for a band who was firing on all cylinders previously. Eye of Providence still has a lot to offer, in part because it’s a very long album, but because there is too much middling product here, it’s a shame to see a great band regress. (Nicholas Senior)

Purchase Eye of Providence here.

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