The Agonist – Lullabies for the Dormant Mind

The Agonist – Lullabies for the Dormant Mind – 3.5/5
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I at first wasn’t considering writing a review for this one, knowing full well that their previous effort was nothing more than a guilty pleasure of mine, but this shows them evolving, tackling a new style that separates them from their ‘dime a dozen’ metalcore brethren. The inclusion of a 3rd style of vocals, and both technical and symphonic tendencies over their metalcore base lends a rather unique twist to them, which whilst it isn’t up to scratch, does make me wonder if in the near future their ‘guilty pleasure’ status will need a second look.

The first thing on this album that hits you is a big drum intro. In fact, the drums are remarkably audible throughout the most part of this album, but unfortunately im not sure this is a good thing. From a technical stand-point, they’re quick, fairly good at varying styles, and never abuse the blast beat. But they have also been produced to death, they sound mechanical, lifeless, and void of emotion. It needs more grit, a bit of dirt – you don’t come out of a fight sounding sparkly – in order to deliver the impact, the rage and aggression that this album so desperately could have used.

The guitars have improved, and display at times riffs worthy of a greater band, the intro for ‘Birds Elope with the Sun,’ or the work in ‘chlorpromazine,’ stands a testament to that, and whilst small fill make themselves apparent, for the most part it is a variety of standard metalcore riffs. (Aka Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-RIFF). They simply have little time to shine, with hardly a solo to their name, or even a notable section where they can do their own thing without the vocalist screaming over it.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this is a vocally dominated album. Beyond the intro and a short section in ‘chlorpromazine,’ she more or less is present at every point of each track, and whilst she has both varied her tone more than her last effort, and has improved, she still isn’t up to scratch. Adding to her repertoire of clean vocals and hardcore rasps is a new, far deeper growl more akin to that used by deathcore artists, (No pig squeals though, thank god) which is used sparingly, more to add another tone than as anything more prominent. The main body of the work remains the rasps and clean vocals, which have improved since their last effort. The clean vocals are varied in pitch, and have a good hint of emotion behind them, successfully varying between the more powerful and aggressive to the softer side. She even succeeds in pulling of her own rendition of a section of the operatic work found in ‘swan lake,’ which if nothing else proves she has ambition. Not top of her game, but easily comparable to the likes of Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil). Her hardcore rasps follow much the same pattern, impressive variation, even up into the higher notes, occasionally issuing an almost black metal like rasped scream.

I was shocked by the album. I went in expecting little and they’ve tried to do so much more than that. They haven’t pandered to the mainstream and gone more accessible, they’ve done the complete opposite, and whilst there are many areas that need work, and especially the vocalist needs to take a step back here, and let the other instruments shine, the number of layers they’ve worked in with style, the improvements in the vocalist’s prowess, and the willingness to attempt new styles leave much promise for their future.

Highlights: Thank You Pain, Globus Hystericus, Chlorpromazine

Note: This is NOT a new review. In fact, it went onto the forum 16th March. Apparently I forgot to post it >.<