THE AGONIST – Lullabies For The Dormant Mind (Century Media – 2009)

agonsit-coverI still say it should be “Lullabyes” in the title, but nobody likes a know-it-all so I’ll let that supposed gaffe slide. What matters is the music, and the new Agonist album is a huge step up from the debut, Once Only Imagined. Unlike the first record, which was bogged down by a poor track sequence, Lullabies For The Dormant Mind goes for the throat from the very first track (‘The Tempest’) and doesn’t let up for a moment until the welcome mid-album acapella version of Tchaikowsky’s ‘Swan Lake’ (executed top to bottom by vocalist Alissa White-Gluz). The aforementioned lead-off track is the bookend to the stellar ‘Business Suits And Combat Boots’ from the first album, sort of a kiss goodbye to the band’s younger days. From the moment second track ‘…And Their Eulogies Sang Me To Sleep’ kicks in it’s readily apparent The Agonist have redefined their focus, delivering an unexpectedly death-thrash album that taunts and teases with threads of neo-classical shred and black metal bombast pulling from the corners. The vocals are the obvious focal point, with Alissa taking her growls and shrieks to an Angela Gossow level, albeit with more range. Her clean voice is untouchable. As a unit The Agonist have learned their lessons well. The guitar work is technically superior to the debut without going prog-metal cold, the occasional use of keyboard enhancement and vocal atmospherics is startling but effective, and the drums give Lullabies a steel hard foundation that the debut lacked. From old school thrash to black metal blastbeats, drummer Simon McKay attacks with skullcrushing Kataklysm-ic abandon. Simply put, this will scare the shit out of some people. Knock-down-drag-out kick in the head fave is ‘Globus Hystericus’ with it’s “better than Arch Enemy” execution, complete with serpentine Dani Filth verse vocals. On the whole, a brilliant listen from beginning to end for anyone smart enough to leave their narrow mind in its jar on the shelf.