Album Review – Rage Of Light / Imploder (2019)

A contrast made of light and rage in the form of an action-packed album of trance music and Melodic Death Metal.

A contrast made of light and rage. That’s exactly what you’re going to get in Imploder, the debut full-length album by Swiss Electronic Groove Metal unity Rage Of Light, the brainchild of vocalist and keyboardist Jonathan Pellet, known for his past works with Symphonic Power Metal band Trophallaxy/Dysrider. Offering a hybrid of trance and Melodic Death Metal, a unique combination of sounds that can be labeled as “Trance Metal”, Rage Of Light will stimulate all your senses with their brand new opus, showing why the multi-talented Jonathan, together with the gorgeous Melissa Bonny (Evenmore, Warkings, Ad Infinitum) on lead vocals and the talented Noé Schüpbach on guitars and bass, are more than ready to conquer the world of heavy music with their creativity, electricity and, of course, a lot of rage.

Jonathan came up with the idea to create a fusion of trance and metal music in 2007, but due to being busy with other projects it took almost a decade for the idea to fully bear fruit. Finally, in 2015, he recruited Melissa and Noé to complete the band, releasing in 2016 their debut five-track EP Chasing a Reflection, followed by a few very interesting singles in 2017 and 2018 including cover versions for Amon Amarth’s battle hymn “Twilight Of The Thunder God” and Lady Gaga’s hit “Judas”. After receiving very positive feedback from fans and critics from all over the world through the years, it’s time now in 2019 for Rage Of Light to reach new heights with Imploder, featuring a modern artwork by Brazilian artist Gustavo Sazes, cellist Joëlle “Jo” Graz (Trophallaxy/Dysrider) as a very special guest musician and, above all, three superb musicians who perfectly represent the union of endless talent and a deep passion for music.

The very atmospheric and entrancing intro Light captivates our senses from the very first second, dragging us to Rage Of Light’s lair of heavy music in Enraged, where the trio begins distilling their refined techniques and ethereal sounds, with Melissa’s hypnotizing vocals matching flawlessly with the song’s epic ambience and crushing beats, not to mention Noé’s amazing guitar solo as the icing on the cake. Following such powerful start, keep banging your head to Melissa, Jonathan and Noé to the heavy-as-hell Fallen, a beautiful fusion of modern-day Melodic Death Metal with trance music, or in other words, a rebellious hymn by Rage Of Light led by Jonathan’s whimsical keys and synths, all complemented by his own rabid growls. And in their 2018 single I Can, I Will we’re treated to a more frantic and electrified version of their Trance Metal, with both Melissa and Jonathan kicking some serious ass with their powerful roars, giving life to the song’s poetic lyrics (“My eyes drag me down / When I look around and see what I’m not / Is there, anywhere, a stairway to the top? / Watch me, never again / Will I look down and feel this pain / Cause now, step by step I start to climb and leave these cries behind”).

Experimenting even more with electronic and eccentric sounds, the band offers our ears another dancing fusion of 90’s trance with Heavy Metal infused with Symphonic Metal nuances in Away With You, where it’s quite impossible to stand still to its enfolding rhythm, while In The Shadow is another solid composition featuring classic beats and riffs mixed with the band’s trademark modernity (it falls flat after a while, though), with Melissa stealing the spotlight once again with her unique voice. Then the gentle and potent cello by Jo brings a touch of finesse to the beyond fantastic and insurgent Battlefront, with Melissa alternating between her crisp clean vocals and her she-demon roars in what’s probably the most detailed and multi-layered song from the entire album; and get ready for a trance-meets-metal party in the instrumental title-track Imploder, courtesy of Jonathan and Noé, who together generate a dense, mechanized and metallic atmosphere for admirers of the genre. Furthermore, despite the fact the drums in the entire album are programmed, they still sounds very organic, therefore smashing your skull mercilessly.

With lyrics sounding like a blend of cult flicks such as Terminator and Night of the Living Dead (“Our lives, threatened by this viral disease / We thought we could handle this affliction / No cure will stop the infection to spread / Condemned by our evolution”), Mechanicals, also previously released as a single, is a movie score-inspired extravaganza showcasing intricate guitar lines, pounding drums,  tons of insanity and a futuristic vibe in over seven minutes of first-class modern metal music, leaving us completely disoriented before Nothingness closes the regular version of the album, with Jo returning with her somber cello to add her share of melancholy and serenity to Rage Of Light’s vibrant music while Noé brings rage to the overrall result with his riffs, flowing smoothly until its delicate grand finale. And please I beg you to go for the deluxe edition of Imploder, as you’ll be absolutely stunned by the bonus track Twilight Of The Thunder God, their cover version for Amon Amarth’s most powerful tune of all time in my opinion (you can check the original version HERE). I saw somewhere a guy saying this version should be called “Twilight of the Thunder Goddess”, and I agree one hundred percent as Melissa is on her more-than-perfect “beast mode”, resulting in a flawless performance by one of the most versatile singers of the new era of metal music.

If you still can’t imagine how the flammable fusion of such distinct styles like trance and Melodic Death Metal sounds like, you can take a full listen at Imploder on Spotify, but in case you’re already familiar with (and addicted to) Rage Of Light’s breathtaking music, don’t forget to follow Jonathan, Melissa and Noé on Facebook and to purchase your copy of their excellent new album from their own BandCamp page, from the Napalm Records’ webstore (in Europe or in the United States), or from your regular retailers like iTunes and Amazon. In the end, no one knows for sure if Rage Of Light play a heavier-than-usual version of trance music, or a modernized and electronic version of Heavy Metal, and that very interesting contrast is what makes their music so unique and vibrant. That’s the beauty of it, don’t you agree?

Best moments of the album: Fallen, Battlefront, Mechanicals and Twilight Of The Thunder God.

Worst moments of the album: In The Shadow.

Released in 2019 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Light 1:48
2. Enraged 5:01
3. Fallen 4:32
4. I Can, I Will 4:36
5. Away With You 3:50
6. In The Shadow 6:47
7. Battlefront 4:30
8. Imploder (Instrumental) 5:58
9. Mechanicals 7:17
10. Nothingness 5:40

Digipak Edition/iTunes/Amazon bonus track
11.Twilight Of The Thunder God (Amon Amarth cover) 4:06

Band members
Melissa Bonny – lead vocals
Jonathan Pellet – vocals, keyboards, synth, drums programming
Noé Schüpbach – guitars, bass

Guest musician
Joëlle “Jo” Graz – cello

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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