The Agonist
Lullabies for the Dormant Mind

Wow. I did not see this coming.

Whereas the debut from Canada’s female fronted metalcore outfit Once Only Imagined, was a complete knock off of In this Moments Beautiful Tragedy, the sophomore effort utterly destroys In This Moment’s second, tamer effort, The Dream with a fierce and impressive evolution in the band’s sound.

Though still generally rooted in Evanescence meets Kill switch Engage metalcore, the fact is the band has improved leaps and bounds. First, vocalist Alyssa White-Gluz seems to have lessoned her political desires and developed her vocal range. The result is she sounds more unhinged during her screaming spats and more elegant with her operatic clean croons. The layering and presence actually needs to be heard on headphones to be appreciated for all of the studio enhanced vocal intricacies.

Second, musically the band and especially guitarist Danny Marino has developed a keen sense of dynamics that stray outside typical metalcore or female fronted Goth metal, but instead mix the two perfectly with a almost sense of controlled chaos that fits the surreal cover rather than simple verse chorus radio tunes (though there are a couple). The album does in fact sound like a series of demented lullabies-both beautiful yet twisted. Also, there are slightly more up front synths presence- not sugary operatic synths but moody, off kilter synth that fit the American McGee’s Alice in Wonderland off kilter dreamscape of the music.

Opening duo “Tempest (The Siren’s Song, The Banshee’s Cry)” and the simply killer “…And Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep” sets the mood perfectly with two tracks of unpredictable riffage, unhinged vocals and dark circus vibe. Another standout, “Thank You, Pain” settles things down with a more traditional, structured sound, but the chorus is simply killer and allows Gluz to open up her classical pipes a bit resulting in a truly catchy track. “Birds Elope with the Sun” continues the run of strong tracks with Glux again simply owning the material with a presence and variety not many female vocalists can attain.

On the down side, after the bar set by the first four tracks, the rest of the album loses some of its appeal, despite the high standard overall. “Waiting Out the Winter” is a flat out let down after the four furious preceding tracks, “When the Bough Breaks” is more Lacuna Coil than anything else and Gluz’s A Cappella rendition of “Swan Lake”, while beautiful, is a bit pretentious. Though “Martyr Art”, “The Sentient” and furious closer “Chlorpromazine” do offer up plenty of high octane moments. Also, the production is a bit canned and processed.

After the relatively mediocre recent Luna Mortis effort, this is a real ‘win’ for Century media and female fronted metal, and one of the biggest, positive surprises in this young year. However, I’m sure some detractors will still turn their nose up at this for being female fronted, released on Century Media and being metalcore.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 31st, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: stiffy

    Riff wise and music wise everything is great. Have a hard time with her vocals though. Sounds forced. I can hear her straining.


  2. Commented by: krustster

    Lol the opening line to this review is almost the same as the one I wrote for my own mini-review: “Well, this was a surprise.” Good CD.


  3. Commented by: axiom

    I’m not a big metalcore fan, but this fucker just rocks. I’d love to catch them live.


  4. Commented by: elguerosinfe

    This is worth checking out – musically its amazing. There are times when her voice doesn’t work, but others when it adds something unique. She reminds me at times of the Madder Mortem singer.


  5. Commented by: buster

    I totally agree with this review. It was a major step up from their last album and I can’t stop listening to it!


  6. Commented by: slushhead

    Wow is right — I’ve been waiting for some time to come across a woman that can match the vocal talent (and . . .ahemm . . . physical appeal) of the legendary Karyn Crisis, and I think Gluz is that woman. Personally, I like the “strained” vocals cited earlier by Stiffy, as they give them a rugged, sneering quality. Granted, I have not heard a live performance and do not know how much of this was artificially enhanced, but the vocal array and toughness is quite impressive. I was on the fence about buying this for awhile, but am very glad I took the chance.


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