Metal Chick of the Month – Vicky Psarakis

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You! Pull me out and plug me in!

As our Metal Chick of the Month beautifully chants in one of her band’s best songs, fear is not her master. Owner of a powerful and wide vocal range that allows her to sing anything from the smoothest Jazz to the most visceral Heavy Metal, she’s the present and future of female singing, with a more-than-promising career ahead of her. I’m talking about the dashing long-haired singer Vicky Psarakis, the frontwoman of one of the most influential contemporary metal bands in Canada, The Agonist, and a woman that represents pure talent in heavy music.

Vicky was born on June 22, 1988 in Chicago, Illinois, United States, but moved to Greece with her family at the age of 10. Her Greek roots were the main reason why she grew up listening to traditional Greek music (as well as Jazz, Blues, Pop and Disco classics), something not very common in the background of most Heavy Metal musicians. Our blonde diva started singing when she was around 5 or 6 years old, when her teachers would make her participate in school plays and musicals. Then when she was 10 she laid her eyes on a piano and fell in love for it, getting her first keyboard and starting playing on her own. When Vicky was attending middle school she started listening to metal and rock music, singing a lot and writing her own songs, later growing an interest towards orchestral arrangements and soundtracks. She mentioned during one of her interviews that the great support she received from people around her was the main reason why she continued to pursue a career in music, leading her to where she is today.

Before joining The Agonist, Vicky had a band named E.V.E., which started off as a Progressive Rock personal project in 2010. Among the bands that influenced the music by E.V.E. there are some very interesting names such as Pain Of Salvation, Ayreon, Dream Theater, Pink Floyd and Fates Warning. In regards to the meaning of E.V.E., according to Vicky herself it stands for “Equations Vanquish Equality”, where the first word is connected with science, math and technology, while the following words refer to humankind and how each person is affected by modern society, giving the idea of how progress, usually a positive term, can affect our lives in a negative way at the same time. You can take a listen at their only release, the 2012 self-titled EP Equations Vanquish Equality, at the band’s BandCamp page or at their official YouTube channel (by the way, on YouTube you can check out their tribute to the renowned diva Anneke Van Giersbergen with a cover version for the song Beautiful One), and witness how Vicky’s vocal performance used to be in the early stages of her career.

Another key point in Vicky’s career are the cover versions for several different bands and artists available on her official YouTube channel, which are either personal favorites or requests from friends or fans and have nothing to do with E.V.E. or The Agonist. Among all the awesome versions uploaded by our stunning singer, I recommend you go check her performance in Audioslave’s Show Me How To Live, in Nightwish’s Slaying The Dreamer, in Disturbed’s Stricken, and especially in Aerosmith’s Dream On and in one of the biggest Iron Maiden classics of all time, The Clairvoyant. Moreover, what seemed to be just a nice and healthy hobby became in fact the spark that changed her life forever: The Agonist’s guitarist, songwriter and founder Danny Marino sent Vicky a message saying how he was impressed with her covers after watching some of her videos on YouTube, asking her later on if she wanted to try and track some vocal and lyric ideas on a couple of his new songs. Vicky ended up sending him back almost a full song (which is now the incredible Danse Macabre), and after listening to it and sharing it with the rest of the band he asked her if she would be willing to join The Agonist as their new frontwoman.

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Although Vicky’s been with The Agonist for such a short period of time, having recorded only the single Disconnect Me in 2014 and the superb full-length album Eye of Providence in 2015, which showcases all her versatility in songs such as Gates Of Horn And Ivory and A Gentle Disease, she already has a lot of interesting stories and facts to share. When asked what’s easier for her to record, if clean singing or harsh vocals, she said screaming might be faster to track, but it’s something relatively new to her and her clean vocals come out a lot more natural due to her music background. Regarding her live performances with The Agonist, Vicky said she was really nervous before stepping on stage for the first time with the band, but as soon as the adrenaline kicked in all nerves were gone and she enjoyed the moment. She also said the most intense concert with The Agonist so far has been Summer Breeze 2014, where they played for a crowd of over ten thousand people. And it looks like Vicky doesn’t have any issues singing songs she didn’t originally write or record: she just sings them in a way that’s comfortable to her, giving her own personal touch to the music.

Apart from her career with The Agonist, E.V.E. and her cover videos on YouTube, Vicky has featured in some other projects and bands as a guest musician, recording female vocals on the song Siege of Ruad, from the album Nuclear Winter (2008) by Greek Heavy/Power Metal band Orion’s Reign; backing vocals on the album Depressive Icons (2010) by Greek Doom/Gothic Metal band Daylight Misery; female vocals on the album Lasting Forever (2013) by Chinese Power Metal band Barque Of Dante, as you can see in the song The Way to Freedom; additional vocals on the album Anthem to Creation (2013) by Greek Progressive Metal band Until Rain; and female vocals on the 2014 self-titled album by Greek Power Metal band Rage of Romance, as in the song Let Me Breathe Again. Is that enough Vicky for your taste?

Such a multifaceted artist like Vicky couldn’t have a short list of influences, of course. If you thought she would say her favorite singers of all time are Angela Gossow or Phil Anselmo, for example, you’re totally wrong, because as aforementioned screaming is something new to her music career. Although Heavy Metal inspired her to become a musician, her list of influences include names from different genres of music like Anneke Van Giersbergen, Daniel Gildenlow, Mikael Akerfeldt, Mikael Stanne, Devon Graves, Roy Khan, Russel Allen, Tom Englund, Marilyn Manson, Sting, among many others. She also enjoys listening to classics such as Led Zeppelin, and to more modern bands like American Rock group Rival Sons.

Lastly, despite all the growling and jumping on stage, her personal hobbies and interests are similar to what most of us like to do in our free time, including activities such as working out, watching a movie, cooking, hanging out with her friends and going out for a beer or to a good restaurant. In other words, if you’re a fan of Vicky Psarakis keep your eyes open wherever you are: she might be sitting right next to your table, sharing a beer with her friends and having some fun, just like you.

Vicky Psarakis’ Official Facebook page
Vicky Psarakis’ Official Twitter
The Agonist’s Official Facebook page
The Agonist’s Official Twitter

“I believe it’s very important for a vocalist and musician in general to be able to maintain their identity by adding their own stamp instead of copying someone else’s rendition on a song.” – Vicky Psarakis

Album Review – The Agonist / Eye of Providence (2015)

Veni, Vidi, Vicky.

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the agonist_eye of providenceAfter a really long and disquieting wait, and obviously after one of the most impactful changes in their entire career, Canadian Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore icons The Agonist finally return with a brand new album, the highly anticipated Eye of Providence, their fourth full-length studio album and, more important than that, the first with the stunning Vicky Psarakis on vocals. But were they able to deliver something as remarkable as their previous releases? Well, not only they nailed it, but Vicky also proves why she was the perfect choice to be the new frontwoman of one of the most influential bands in the recent history of Canadian metal.

With songs revolving around technology and how it affects modern society, as well as some other intimate topics, the whole album has a pleasant and smooth flow that allows the listener to thoroughly sense an interesting interconnection between all songs and, even more important than that, focusing less on melodic metal music and more on raw contemporary Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll than their previous albums. In addition, maybe due to the release of the album being delayed for a few months (it was originally scheduled to be released mid-2014), the band added a few extra songs to it, resulting in expressive 13 songs and over 58 minutes of music, around ten seconds longer than Prisoners, from 2012.

If you’re a longtime fan of this Montreal-based band and keep updated with everything they do you already know the opening track, Gates of Horn and Ivory, and you also know how awesome Vicky sounds. Besides, this song has extremely catchy lyrics that will stick deep in your mind for a long time (“With fire at my back / I will tame the waters / I will learn to swim / Fear is not my master”). Would that be a message from Vicky to the world, telling how she’s dauntlessly braving the rough waters of The Agonist? In My Witness, Your Victim, which by the way has a really entertaining and kind of disturbing official video, Vicky’s clean vocals are very solid and match perfectly with the music while her growls give it a fair dose of violence, with the final result sounding robust and gripping.

the agonistHow did they manage to blend Swedish Melodic Death Metal with North American Metalcore so beautifully like in the awesome Danse Macabre? Danny Marino and Pascal “Paco” Jobin deliver some thrilling guitar lines while Simon McKay keeps his beats totally in sync with them, and of course, Vicky’s vocals full of passion and feeling are outstanding in this song. I Endeavor reminds me a little of their classic song “Business Suits and Combat Boots”, especially its drumming and vocal lines, with highlights to the soulful guitar solo at the end of it; while Faceless Messenger is maybe one of their most “European” songs in terms of melody, and I would love to see them playing this song live. Vicky does such an amazing job during this track, ranging from light and smooth vocals to the harsh screams of an evil entity, it doesn’t even sound it’s the same person singing.

Although Perpetual Notion has a promising start, where an acoustic intro suddenly turns into melancholic and violent metal, the rest of it is nothing special, lacking more creativity and depth; while A Necessary Evil is an incredible display of “old school” The Agonist (well, not that old) with a very intense and solid sounding. The whole band is on fire during the entire song, with Simon and Vicky being the sergeants leading the squad. Then we have Architects Hallucinate, which sounds like filler compared to the others despite not being a bad song, and the mighty Disconnect Me, one of the fastest and heaviest of all tracks. It’s Metalcore at its finest, boosted by its futuristic lyrics (“Initiate the procedure to transform my body / Into a greater form to serve your gain / Access the brain to eliminate / The source that constrains us to be humane”) and some great riffs provided by Danny and Paco, while Vicky delivers the goods once again with a brilliant vocal performance.

But The Agonist are not finished yet, as there’s a lot more to come in Eye of Providence:  in The Perfect Embodiment we can see how wide Vicky’s vocal range is, convincing me (and probably all listeners) she can sing pretty much anything she wants to. In addition, it’s interesting to notice how the guitar lines seem to mimic Vicky’s vocals and vice-versa so connected they are. If A Gentle Disease gives us all a chance to see the band in an acoustic version, with Vicky using all the finesse in her clean vocals to help it become a true love ballad, the fiery Follow the Crossed Line, a song full of melody, rhythmic breaks and effective guitar solos, showcases some Black Metal-ish growls by Vicky, adding even more obscurity to it. And lastly, we can savour almost eight minutes of pure professionalism and emotion in As Above, So Below, with highlights to the passionate performance by Vicky who relies almost 100% on her clean vocals to give more life to the song.

I believe you’ll agree with me when I say the album art expresses everything the music in Eye of Providence is: futuristic, aggressive, organic and distressing, which is exactly what we all want to hear from a band so captivating as The Agonist. In regards to the length of the album, I’m more than happy with the fact there’s a lot of The Agonist in all shapes and sizes for us to absorb and enjoy in the following months and years in Eye of Providence until they release a new album again. And at long last, Danny might still be the one to lead the band’s musicality with his passionate guitar lines, but as already mentioned we must admit Vicky is the breath of fresh air the band needed so much. If I was asked to summarize her overall performance in just a couple of words, I would adapt the famous phrase used by Roman general Julius Caesar to inform the Senate of his victory in his war against Pharnaces II of Pontus at the Battle of Zela around 46 BC: “Veni, Vidi, Vicky”.

Best moments of the album: Gates of Horn and Ivory, Danse Macabre, A Necessary Evil and Disconnect Me.

Worst moments of the album: Perpetual Notion and Architects Hallucinate.

Released in 2015 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Gates of Horn and Ivory 3:25
2. My Witness, Your Victim 4:47
3. Danse Macabre 4:01
4. I Endeavor 4:08
5. Faceless Messenger 5:00
6. Perpetual Notion 4:34
7. A Necessary Evil 3:44
8. Architects Hallucinate 4:30
9. Disconnect Me 3:32
10. The Perfect Embodiment 5:13
11. A Gentle Disease 3:45
12. Follow the Crossed Line 4:11
13. As Above, So Below 7:57

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