The Agonist released Lullabies for the Dormant Mind in 2009 and their popularity quite literally exploded. Yeah, no kidding. Their debut, Once Only Imagined got the attention of a fairly small amount of people (which included me). But to be honest, with the exception of some, it wasn’t really that impressive. This was especially true when they released their sophomore masterpiece in 2009, which I gave an extremely high 19/20 score. So now, three years later, The Agonist has their highly anticipated follow-up album out in the markets, and it’s already proving to be their most successful album yet. I’m guessing that this is partly due to extensive advertising and several anti-piracy articles and videos created by Century Media (their label) and their blue-haired vocalist/sex symbol Alyssa White-Glutz. After going on about Alyssa in my review of their second album, I don’t think that it’s necessary to do that in all my other Agonist reviews.
This album is somewhat a continuation of the sound Lullabies for the Dormant Mind portrayed, but with some variations and progressions in some areas. Most of these areas where the band progressed were areas that were somewhat premature in their first two releases (guitar solos, catchiness, etc.). Actually, I partially take that back, because the band hasn’t progressed their sound as much as they have spent time exploring other sounds, which include much more melodic rock and acoustic-influenced styles. Aside from this change in direction towards a more melodic sound, the heavier parts have much more of a catchy rock sound that is considerably less complex and technical than in their second album. This isn’t a thing that has been making me happy. Because honestly, this unusual-sounding technicality was my favorite thing about The Agonist, therefore stating the primary reason for my praise of Lullabies for the Dormant Mind.
The first song that I heard from this album was the first song that everyone else heard from it: Predator and Prayer. But then again, two of the songs off the album were released in 2011 as an EP, which I usually don’t tend to count since there apparently weren’t that many people that bothered to listen to it. But the majority of their audience heard the discreetly and sneakily-released track Predator and Prayer, which is a MUCH better first impression of this album than either of the two songs released on The Escape [EP]. So if you haven’t heard anything from this album yet, make Predator and Prayer your first priority because believe me, it is THE pinnacle of the album (although some beg to differ, which is fine). That’s the problem that I have with this album; the album as a whole isn’t as strong. There are some REALLY strong tracks that just blow your mind, some fairly good tracks, and then just some plain ol’ mediocre songs that aren’t bad in any way, but tend to be disappointing after you hear the better ones.
Lullabies for the Dormant Mind is a solid album because every single song on that album is like a titanium structure. All of the songs have a similar sound and work together to create a virtually indestructible skeleton to keep the album together. The structure holding Prisoners together isn’t quite as solid as I would like it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s damn solid, The Agonist doesn’t fuck around, but the weak structure exposes several weak spots that tend to be bothersome. It’s not so much the structure of the album itself that I consider weak as much as some of the individual songs themselves that are just…well…not extremely impressive. Songs like Anxious Darwinians, The Mass of the Earth, and Dead Ocean speak out to me as not being as strong as they could be. After hearing Lullabies for the Dormant Mind, I know personally that The Agonist is more than capable of composing material stronger than this. Then again, all of these songs that I’ve just listed are enjoyable listens; they’re just not what I would consider to be “highlights” of this album.
As far as the individual musicians and their technical SKILLS go, they’ve all improved. One member that you don’t hear on this album that you may remember from the two previous albums is The Human Abstract guitarist Andrew Tapley, who was replaced by Pascal Jobin in 2010 when Andrew left to focus on writing and recording The Human Abstract’s Digital Veil album. Considering Tapley’s unique complex style, this is probably part of the reasoning behind the decline in technicality on Prisoners. The harmonizations in Alyssa’s singing is MUCH bigger and a hell of a lot more complex than ever before; sometimes recording over herself four or five times. And I’ve got to admit, it adds a whole new element to The Agonist’s music and it sounds fucking amazing. Her screaming and growling hasn’t gotten any crisper, but it sure as hell sounds more powerful than ever before, which means that she’s taking very good care of her throat and focusing on her sound. The most disappointing thing that one might find is that the drums and bass don’t take as big of a part in the music as they did before. When you listen to songs off of their first two albums, you hear one bass solo and drum solo after another, which was part of what made them sound so technical.
But with that aside, this is an album that all melodic death fans should give a listen or two…or three. One thing that I’m hearing in this album is experimentation and intention to expand musical creativity, but a slight loss of focus on the overall solidness of the album’s structure. I’m not encouraging monotony, but some of the songs on this album aren’t what I would consider to be the best of the band’s capability. I would rate this album 17/20.