Album Review – The Agonist / Five (2016)

An average album by a band that has the potential to offer a lot more than this, full of highs and lows and quite confusing at times.

Rating6

the-agonist_fiveI might be absolutely wrong in what I’m about to say and many of you won’t probably agree with me but, after the remarkable success achieved by the fantastic Eye of Providence last year, I believe Canadian Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore band The Agonist rushed things a bit in the release of Five, their fifth installment and by far the album containing some of the weakest tracks ever recorded by this iconic Montreal-based band. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good moments in Five, but the album as a whole lacks more creativity and punch, being full of highs and lows that end up making listening to it quite confusing at times.

Featuring an eccentric artwork by Brazilian artist Gustavo Sazes, and with all song names beginning with “THE” (in case you’re a person obsessed with minor details), Five doesn’t sound as fresh and inspiring as their previous albums, feeling at times as if they were “forced” by some contractual clause to release a new album in 2016, which kind of explains why you’ll find amazing compositions like “The Anchor and the Sail” mixed with forgettable songs such as “The Man Who Fell to Earth”. For instance, the album is unimaginatively called Five, a pedestrian name not even close to the beauty of Lullabies for the Dormant Mind or Eye of Providence. However, if there’s one thing that’s absolutely awesome from start to finish is the performance by the stunning blonde banshee Vicky Psarakis, who saved several parts of the album from being a disaster.

Despite its promising ominous intro, The Moment doesn’t live up to its hype, quickly turning into generic Melodic Metal with lazy guitars and drumming. As aforementioned, although Vicky continues to impress on vocals as she did in Eye of Providence (and she had a lot of fun recording the official video for this song which you can see at the end of this review, by the way), this is certainly one of the most unexciting songs the band has ever written. The Chain is a billion times faster and heavier, just the way it’s supposed to be, with Danny Marino and Pascal “Paco” Jobin doing an awesome job on guitars, and despite its backing vocals sounding a bit out of place the overall result is pretty good, with highlights to its interesting lyrics (“Can I have the attention of the class? / Open up your text / The city of Seven Hills / Another illustration of the autophagy / Put down your fiddle, Lady Liberty / And take a good long look”).

My favorite of all tracks, The Anchor and The Sail, is the good old The Agonist we got used to but with a more contemporary touch, perfectly representing the evolution in music every artist always search for. Its rhythmic and potent riffs and beats, together with Vicky kicking fuckin’ ass on both clean vocals and harsh screams (especially during the song’s enraged chorus), accredit this to become one of their biggest hits in a near future as soon as fans have time to absorb all the music in Five properly, which is not the case in The Game, another song with a promising intro that unfortunately fades into genericism, feeling more like filler than like an honest composition by the band. Then Vicky and drummer Simon McKay lead the musicality in the solid The Ocean through their beautiful vocal lines and harmonious and powerful beats, displaying the right amount of classic The Agonist blended with some interesting experimentations that could easily become a radio hit; followed by The Hunt, which albeit not a masterpiece in terms of creativity, at least it maintains a good flow of energy with Vicky once again stealing the show. And if you say I’m being too picky and that I only enjoy their old classics, let me tell you one of my favorite compositions in Five hands down is the devilish Blues-inspired semi-acoustic ballad The Raven Eyes, completely different from anything the band has ever done before and something I would love to see The Agonist replicating live. The stunning performance by Vicky, declaiming the song’s venomous lyrics embraced by a deliciously dark atmosphere and complemented by smooth piano notes and acoustic guitar lines, is the epitome of awesomeness.

the-agonist_2016I have absolutely no idea why the Nightwish-like instrumental track The Wake was included in Five. It’s not a bad composition, not at all, but it doesn’t add anything remarkable to the album except for almost three minutes to its total duration. I’m not even sure if I can consider this one of the worst songs of the album so out of place it is. Anyway, The Resurrection, one of the heaviest of all songs in Five, brings forward another promising start and excellent lyrics (“Take these coins off my eyes / I’m not ready to be put down / If only you could hear the screaming in my mind / Take these coins off my eyes”), with my only complaint being that it could have kept the same wrath from its first few seconds during the whole song. The Villain follows a similar pattern, losing a little of its punch halfway through it, but nothing that harms its overall electricity. Moreover, the amazing low-tuned sounds by bassist Chris Kells and the furious drumming by Simon provide all the necessary support for Vicky to keep firing her potent growls.

The last part of the album is just downhill in terms of quality and adrenaline, starting with The Pursuit of Emptiness, which is not heavy enough to be Melodic Death Metal nor light enough to be Hard Rock, getting lost in trying to incorporate too many different genres at the same time; whereas the worst of all songs, The Man Who Fell to Earth, would have been a complete disaster if it wasn’t for Vicky’s passionate vocals. Exhibiting the blandest instrumental parts of all tracks, you’ll forget this song exists as soon as it’s over. And the regular version of the album ends with a not-so-bad composition entitled The Trial, nothing truly remarkable but at least it adds some fire to an album below my expectations. And if you grab the limited edition of Five you’ll be treated to their cover version for Hozier’s Take Me to Church, a solid tribute to a contemporary classic, albeit I still prefer Vicky’s old cover songs available on her YouTube channel like her sensational version for “Stricken” by Disturbed.

One day Five might grow on me, but so far after tons of listens at different times and places I still don’t feel this is the best The Agonist could have done as the next step in their amazing career and I don’t believe what I wrote in this review will change much. You can listen to a preview of each track HERE and take your own conclusions (or you can obviously buy the full album), and although I’ll add a few of the songs from Five to my playlist together with all their previous classics, I think it will be hard for me to go and pick Five in its entirety to be part of the soundtrack for my commute, at the gym, at home or anywhere else. I don’t believe the band sold out like I read many people saying in the past week, but the fact that they released a new album when the previous one was still very fresh and vibrant doesn’t make a lot of sense. Well, let’s see what they will offer us next, and as long as it’s not called “Six” it will already be an advancement compared to Five.

Best moments of the album: The Anchor and the Sail, The Ocean and The Raven Eyes.

Worst moments of the album: The Moment, The Pursuit of Emptiness and The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Released in 2016 Napalm Records

Track listing  
1. The Moment 4:14
2. The Chain 3:12
3. The Anchor and the Sail 3:49
4. The Game 2:50
5. The Ocean 4:27
6. The Hunt 3:35
7. The Raven Eyes 5:34
8. The Wake 2:44
9. The Resurrection 5:22
10. The Villain 5:00
11. The Pursuit of Emptiness 4:03
12. The Man Who Fell to Earth 3:53
13. The Trial 4:33

Limited Edition Digipack bonus tracks
14. Take Me to Church (Hozier cover) 5:52
15. The Raven Eyes (acoustic version) 5:36

Band members
Vicky Psarakis – vocals
Danny Marino – guitar
Pascal “Paco” Jobin – guitar
Chris Kells – bass
Simon McKay – drums

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