Album Review – The Agonist / Orphans (2019)

Montreal, Quebec-based juggernauts of Melodic Death Metal return with a brand new album that’s more extreme, more melodic and more exciting than ever.

I guess one of the most important details in Orphans, the sixth full-length album in the career of Montreal, Quebec-based Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore juggernauts The Agonist, is the fact that the band took their time to write and record it without rushing things up, and the final result is truly breathtaking. Featuring a minimalist but captivating artwork by Canadian artist Mikio Murakami (Silent Q Design), Orphans is a huge step forward in the band’s musical path compared to their previous album Five, released in 2016, a bland and uninspired album that seemed to have been released way too fast as if their record label was trying to capitalize on the huge success of their 2015 opus Eye of Providence. Fortunately for all of us, the band comprised of the stunning Vicky Psarakis on vocals, Danny Marino and Pascal “Paco” Jobin on the guitars, Chris Kells on bass and Simon McKay on drums learned their lesson, putting a lot of effort, focus and time on the creation of the amazing Orphans and, consequently, getting back on track for our total delectation.

Vicky’s mesmerizing vocalizations ignite the furious and wicked opening track In Vertigo, my favorite song in Orphans showcasing lyrics clearly inspired by Alice in Wonderland (“A little too big and a little too small / The thing is that life isn’t one size fits all / So take a sip and a couple of bites / And lay back to feast with your own eyes / Down down down the rabbit hole!”). Danny and Pascal are on fire with their riffs and solos, not to mention the brutal, guttural growls blasted by Vicky during the last part of the song, resulting in a full-bodied anthem that represents what The Agonist are all about to perfection. They continue their journey to the past without sounding outdated in As One We Survive, a modern and fresh version of their classic sonority where Melodic Death Metal meets Progressive Metal, with Simon crushing our heads mercilessly with his intricate beats; and get ready to slam into the pit with Vicky and the boys in The Gift of Silence, another frantic creation by the band overflowing rage and madness where Chris and Simon generate a rumbling ambience with their bass lines and beats, also presenting very melodic pieces led by Vicky and her piercing clean vocals.

Then it’s time for the band to head into the battlefield in Blood as My Guide, a fantastic composition showcasing thrilling vocal lines, powerful drums and an absolutely inspiring vibe, resulting in what’s by far one of the best creations of the Vicky era. Moreover, it’s impressive how Danny and Pascal can sound so violent and at the same time so harmonious on the guitars, with Vicky’s gorgeous Greek words bringing an extra touch of epicness to the overall result. After such imposing tune, let’s meet Mr. Cold together with The Agonist in another solid tune where all band members deliver some of the most progressive lines of the whole album, in special the stringed trio Danny, Pascal and Chris, whereas in Dust to Dust they venture through the lands of classic Rock N’ Roll and even Soul, but always loyal to their Metalcore essence, of course. Needless to say, Vicky is flawless with both her clean and harsh vocals, enhancing even more the song’s headbanging rhythm led by Simon’s beats. And back to a more aggressive and infuriated sonority we have A Devil Made Me Do It with its straightforward, in-your-face lyrics roared by our she-wolf Vicky (“Catch me if you can / I am faster than your mind can fathom / Armed with the element of surprise / I slither through the corners of your eyes”), while the band’s guitar duo keeps blasting flammable riffs and solos from start to finish.

The Agonist Orphans Limited Deluxe Box Set

Those talented metallers continue to hammer our heads in The Killing I, bringing to our ears groovy bass punches delivered by Chris while Simon goes berserk on drums, or in other words, this song should work beautifully if played live, and I have no words to describe Vicky’s demented performance on vocals where she proves once again she can easily and seeminglessly fluctuate between gorgeous clean vocals and deep, enraged roars. The title-track Orphans is perhaps the darkest of all songs, a voyage through the realms of Melodic Death Metal and Metalcore infused with Progressive Metal, with Vicky effectively telling the story behind the music with tons of emotion while the rest of the band offers an avalanche of groovy and thunderous sounds nonstop. Then closing the album The Agonist smashes our senses one final time in Burn It All Down, where Vicky sounds as insane and violent as she can be while Simon and Chris build a solid stage perfect for Danny and Pascal to slash their stringed axes, leaving us all disoriented and eager for more of this version of the band in a not-so-distant future.

As mentioned in the beginning of this review, I’m glad The Agonist took their time to compose Orphans, which is by the way available in full on Spotify, delivering a beyond dense and potent album of metal music that will certainly please all diehard fans of the band as well as newcomers to their metallic world. You can grab your desired copy of Orphans from several different locations by clicking HERE, like for instance the limited deluxe box set containing a jewel case CD, a flag, a logo pendant, a patch and an autographed card. The investment in this box set is definitely worth it, mainly because Orphans kicks some serious ass, of course, and also due to the fact it’s been three long (but productive) years since their last installment. Orphans is undoubtedly a serious contender to feature among the best metal albums of 2019, proving once and for all great bands like The Agonist don’t need to release album after album just because their labels think it’s a good idea. We, metalheads from all over the world, are more than happy to wait for a while for new material as long as it’s as extreme, melodic and exciting as Orphans.

Best moments of the album: In Vertigo, The Gift of Silence, Blood as My Guide and The Killing I.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. In Vertigo 5:04
2. As One We Survive 3:40
3. The Gift of Silence 4:38
4. Blood as My Guide 4:27
5. Mr. Cold 4:40
6. Dust to Dust 3:17
7. A Devil Made Me Do It 3:38
8. The Killing I 4:17
9. Orphans 5:39
10. Burn It All Down 3:36

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

Guest musician
Lefteris Germenlis – electronic and string arrangements

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