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 They continue their journey to the past without sounding outdated in As One We Survive, a modern and fresh version of their classic sonority where Melodic Death Metal meets Progressive Metal, with Simon crushing our heads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

Metal Chick of the Month – Thais Amaral

Soldado não para!

If you’re a fan of the Crossover Thrash played by bands like Sepultura and Lamb of God, but at the same time highly influenced by Alternative and New Metal the likes of Korn, Jinjer and Deftones, get ready to be absolutely stunned by our metal chick of the month of November, who’s more than ready to rock like there’s no tomorrow together with her bandmates from a Brazilian band that goes by the stylish name of Endigna. Owner of a potent and versatile voice, she can deliver first-class clean vocals as well as demonic roars to our avid ears, both in Brazilian Portuguese and in English, leaving us all disoriented after her sonic attack is said and done. I’m talking about Thais Amaral, also known as Thais Endigna or even Babby Drunk, not only the frontwoman for Endigna but also a woman that brings a very welcome (and aggressive) feminine touch to a scene dominated by men.

Born and raised in Taboão da Serra, a municipality in the state of São Paulo in Brazil and part of the Metropolitan Region of the city of São Paulo, Thais started her life in music when she was around 8 or 9 years old because of the religious direction of her own family. As part of a gospel family, she got used to seeing people around her singing and playing different musical instruments; however, she only got interested in singing, never in playing an instrument, which led her to be part of the children’s choir at her church, moving on to the teenage group and to the youth group, later forming an all-female quintet where they used to sing a slightly different musical style more inclined to Soul and R&B. Although she decided to leave the church only when she was 16, she used to listen to a lot of rock music from the 90’s since she was around 12, which ended up having a huge influence on her desire to have her own band. That dream kind of came true when she was about to turn 18 years old, in 2003, when she formed a band named Goma 84, which unfortunately lasted for only two years until it was dissolved due to the different musical directions each member wanted to take. Through the years, apart from popular singing, Thais has also been enrolled in a course at IC&T – Instituto de Canto e Tecnologia in São Paulo, Brazil specialized in Heavy Metal vocal techniques, taught by Brazilian vocalist Thiago Bianchi (Shaman, Noturnall).

It was in 2007 that Thais formed her current band Endigna together with drummer (and also her husband) Tiago Sorrentino, aiming at showing a more aggressive side of rock and metal with lyrics in Portuguese, dealing with different introspective and rebellious topics. Highly influenced by renowned acts like Sepultura, Pantera, Lamb of God and Korn, as well as some very interesting names of the Brazilian scene such as Nação Zumbi and Raimundos, the band comprised of our metal lady Thais Amaral (or in this case Babby Drunk) on vocals, Tom Ayres on the guitar, Bruno Mota on bass and Tiago Sorrentino on drums released their debut EP entitled Soldado Não Para (which would translate as “a soldier doesn’t stop” or “a soldier never stops” from Portuguese) in 2014, and despite all the changes in their lineup through the years the band has solidified their name in the Brazilian underground scene, having already played in several cities across the country. At first, when the band was created, Thais and her bandmates were not exactly sure of what they wanted to do apart from obviously having fun playing in a metal band, and what started as a form of entertainment with the band playing cover songs from bands like Sepultura, System of a Down and Disturbed (like this live footage from 2012 where they play the classic Down with the Sickness), plus a couple of original compositions, quickly evolved to a more serious project, attracting more and more people curious to see that fusion of extreme music with female clean and harsh vocals.

In 2018, while Endigna was recording their first full-length album, Thais and Tiago faced a lot of problems with lineup changes and different musical ideas, which forced Thais to end the recordings and put an end also to Endigna as a band. However, after uploading on YouTube a vocal cover video for the song Pisces, by one of her favorite bands, Ukrainian metallers Jinjer, Thais was informed the video was not only seen by Jinjer themselves, but the band posted it on their official Facebook page, acknowledging it as the best cover version to one of their songs they’ve ever seen. If that wasn’t enough to make Thais extremely happy and proud of herself, Endigna were later invited to be the opening act for Jinjer at Manifesto Bar in São Paulo during their Latin American tour that year. Needless to say, that was a dream come true for Thais and the boys, re-igniting the fire inside Endigna for the delight of all fans of the band. If you want to enjoy the flammable music and live performances by Thais and her bandmates from Endigna, I recommend you take a good look and and even better listen at several Youtube videos from their official channel such as De Mãos Dadas, Pecado, Soldado Não Para, Lei Da Obediência, and several live videos like Morre Que Passa, Salvação at Mineiro Rock Bar, Pecado and Cara Da Derrota at Manifesto Bar in 2015, and Salvação, Sufocante and Lei Da Obediência live at Crazy Festival at Led Slay in 2011. Also ,don’t forget to check their SoundCloud page and official Instagram profile to know more about the band and their music.

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Apaart from her career with Endigna, our dauntless Thais can also be seen singing on the song Olho por Olho (which literally translates as “eye for an eye”) by a very peculiar project curiously named D.A.T.E.N.N.A (Desgraceiras Aterradoras Televisionadas Em Notícias Nada Agradáveis), a wordplay with the name of a Brazilian journalist who hosts a hideous TV show that deals mostly with the urban violence and nasty crimes in various regions of Brazil, as well as her aforementioned YouTube channel where you can find her vocal covers for Jinjer’s Pisces and Arch Enemy’s Reason To Believe, featuring special guest Hebberty Taurus,  guitarist for a Brazilian metal band called Dakhmas. Furthermore, Thais is also a skillful tattoo artist, running her own studio called Thais Amaral Tattoo in her hometown Taboão Da Serra (and you can get more details about the studio directly from its Facebook page or Instagram).

Regarding her biggest idols, influences and favorite bands and artists, Thais always mentions in her interviews iconic groups like Lamb Of God, Slayer, Deftones, Otep, Faith No More, A Perfect Circle, Tool and Stone Temple Pilots, and even pop artists like Beyoncé and P!nk; in addition, Thais also said in one of her social media profiles that the saddest song she’s ever listened to is Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven, the movie she’s watched the most in her life is The Craft, from 1996, saying she even owns it in VHS and DVD, and that she recommends the song Kriptonita, by a band named Ludov, for anyone who’s looking for good music from the Brazilian rock scene.

Thais, who by the way has been suffering from bulimia for several years but that fortunately has also been able to control that inner monster, said in one of her interviews that although the rock and metal scene are still considered sexist by many, she doesn’t really feel that difference or discrimination as she works better with guys than with girls, but that she obviously understands from a viewer standpoint that there’s a lot more pressure on women than on men. Also, our talented growler currently enjoys full support from her family in regards to her career as a musician, complementing by saying that this wasn’t the case in the beginning as the type of music played by Endigna isn’t exactly what we can consider a cash cow. Nevertheless, Thais and Endigna truly love to hit the stage and kick some serious asses, with her “ritual” before her live performances including a facial muscle warm-up, vocalizations and gargling with lukewarm water to drain her vocal chords, and after the concert is over she doesn’t talk or say anything for four or six hours to recover her voice.

Lastly, when asked about the rock and metal scene in her hometown and in the rest of Brazil, Thais said that there are countless amazing bands all over the country that deserve our attention, despite of course all hassles and barriers faced by any underground band that plays heavy music. She complemented by saying that her interaction with all organizers, as well as with all fans of heavy music, is always fantastic, praising the hard work by everyone involve in all festivals and events where Endigna played and saying she loves to interact with the fans, without whom Endigna wouldn’t exist in her opinion, also mentioning the importance of the internet for the band to spread their music, their videos and tour dates. And, as a bonus, if you speak fluent Brazilian Portuguese or have a very good understanding of the language, simply sit down, relax and enjoy this nice interview with Thais to a series called “A Cena É Delas” for Motim Underground, where she talks about everything that was mentioned above and more, focusing on the role of women in the current scene, showing that the underground in Brazil is stronger than ever with talented musicians like Thais proudly carrying the flag of heavy music wherever they go.

Thais Amaral’s Official Facebook page
Thais Amaral’s Official Instagram
Thais Amaral’s Official Twitter
Thais Amaral’s Official YouTube channel
Endigna’s Official Facebook page

Endigna’s Official Instagram
Endigna’s Official Twitter
Endigna’s Official YouTube channel

Metal Chick of the Month – Noora Louhimo

noora01

Let It Roar, Noora!

It is a well-known fact that all Finnish women are pretty and charming, absolutely no doubt about that. But it’s when a girl from the land of ice and snow releases her inner beast that things get even more exciting, which is exactly the case with our Metal Chick of the Month, the ravishing Noora Louhimo, lead singer of Finnish Heavy Metal band Battle Beast. And if you don’t like the voice and the looks of this blonde “warrior princess”, honestly, I don’t know what to say.

Noora was born on November 6, 1988 in Tampere, Finland, around 180km north of the capital Helsinki, and she has been singing since she was only 4 years old. She had many hobbies before she started focusing on singing, such as dancing, acting, drawing, painting and anything else she could do to express herself. When she was around 13 years old, she had her first band at school, singing Finnish pop songs as well as love ballads from artists like Whitney Houston and Celine Dion.

Despite being a huge fan of Heavy Metal from the 80’s when she was a teenager, when she was 16 years old she had some classical singing lessons, before starting to study music in a more Pop/Jazz-line and doing some jam sessions at bars at the age of 19. That was also when she found her first band, called Admiral Octopus, at a place called BluesBar. The band used to play Rock N’ Roll and Blues from the 60’s, 70’s, and also songs from Janis Joplin, which according to Noora herself is the reason why she got the rasp in her voice. After Admiral Octopus, Noora took part in a singing competition called “Wanna Be A Rock N’ Roll Star” at a place called Henry’s Pub, also in Tampere, and guess what? She won the competition singing Janis Joplin’s classic Piece of My Heart. That’s how her single Relax was born, and that’s pretty much her history before joining Battle Beast.

It was during autumn in 2012, right after Battle Beast finished touring some summer rock festivals in Finland, that singer Nitte Valo, who was with the band since its inception in 2008, announced to be leaving the band due to family issues. In September 2012, guitarist Anton Kabanen found Noora by accident on YouTube when he was searching for a new vocalist for Battle Beast, and after a couple of calls Noora accepted the challenge to be the new frontwoman of the band. In 2013 our blonde diva recorded her first full-length release with the band, the powerful self-titled album Battle Beast, and more recently the also amazing Unholy Saviour, in January 2015.

The Finnish lioness mentioned in one of her interviews that she does many different exercises with her voice, rest it when needed and then a lot more, and also that working out is a very important part of keeping her vocals in a good shape. Whatever she’s actually doing with her voice, it’s working more than perfectly, as we can notice in her excellent performance on a Finnish television program in 2014 singing the song Into the Heart of Danger, her contributions to the good song Satans of Swing by Finnish band Somehow Jo! and to the inspiring Eye to Eye by Swiss Melodic Power Metal band Crystal Ball, and also singing one of her favorite songs from Battle Beast, the electrifying tune Let It Roar. One interesting fact about her singing style is that, as much as she wants to sound like a female singer with “balls”, she wants to sound feminine and sexy at the same time.

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In regards to her main influences in life, our warrior princess doesn’t only sing Heavy Metal, but a huge variety of music genres such as Soul, Rock, Blues, among others, and those different styles are what keep her in balance and inspired as a singer. As aforementioned, she started listening to metal music when she was 16 years old, and that “fire” started actually with Guns N’ Roses. When she heard Welcome to the Jungle for the first time, she knew there was no coming back. Then there came Dio, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P. and of course Iron Maiden. Although her list of influences is endless, including names such as Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Whitney Houston, Blackie Lawless, Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Michael Jackson, Axl Rose and many more, her biggest idols in music are first Janis Joplin and second Ann Wilson.

And last but not least, when asked if she’s addicted to any bad habit or guilty pleasure, her answer couldn’t be more feminine than that: chocolate. Well, our “blonde ninja” is an extremely talented and beautiful woman, and Finnish chocolate is by far one of the best in the world. I guess there couldn’t be a better combination than that to celebrate two years of The Headbanging Moose, right?

Noora Louhimo’s Official Facebook page
Battle Beast’s Official Facebook page

“My passion has always been music and different ways of expressing myself as an artist.” – Noora Louhimo