The Agonist

All posts tagged The Agonist

By Carl Begai

theagonist2016_faya-24

Take a look at the viewer comments left as (burnt) offerings for the three videos The Agonist posted in the weeks prior to the release of their new album, Five – “The Chain”, “The Moment” and “The Hunt” respectively – and you’ll find the band has a very loyal yet painfully divided fanbase. Understandable given the parting of ways with original singer Alissa White-Gluz (now with Arch Enemy) in 2014 and the addition of Vicky Psarakis in her place, but the haters aren’t merely complaining about the vocals this time out. No, it would seem that those who would try to do The Agonist harm with insults and assorted trolling when Eye Of Providence was released in 2015 are taking issue with the songwriting on Five, the riffs, the production, the mix, even the promo photos, as well as the vocals. Guitarist Danny Marino isn’t one to let the negativity that has surfaced get to him because he knows Five is a bold step forward for The Agonist, and the band still has a legion of open-minded supporters.

“It’s hard to judge positive and negative reactions based on comments made on a video,” he says, “but even if they’re mainly positive the negative comments speak louder because they jump out at you. I think it’s important for any band to look at it that way. For example, I remember when Opeth went through their musical shift a couple albums ago and decided to continue on that path. It wasn’t pleasant for them (laughs) but I think they’re more successful now than they’ve ever been in their career. It took some time for people to adjust to their new direction. It’s very subjective. All we can do is keep putting out music and seeing people show up to watch us play. That’s how we know we’re doing something good.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

The departure of vocalist Angela Gossow should have and probably would have destroyed Arch Enemy had the situation not been handled with the elegance and intelligence that it was. Fact is her entrance in 2000 is what yanked the band out of the underground and put them through the roof, and only the devout Johan Liiva followers from way back wanted to see her gone. She left the ranks gracefully, and with the ultimate parting shot: choosing singer Alissa White-Gluz (ex-The Agonist) as her successor. It’s amazing what a lack of drama and a new focus can accomplish; in this case, the creation of Arch Enemy’s strongest album since Anthems Of Rebellion, possibly their best ever. Beg to differ all you want, but to these ears the Arch Enemy war machine has sounded increasingly tired in recent years, not quite spinning its wheels but definitely in need of a tune-up. War Eternal is the battle cry of an armed-to-the-teeth new model strike force.

War Eternal

Simply put, War Eternal epitomizes melodic death metal; emphasis on “melodic.” There are truckloads of melody woven, stacked, and layered through the full length of the record, to the point of guitarist / braintrust Michael Amott being wonderfully obnoxious about it. Even the heaviest tracks on the record – ‘Never Forgive Never Forget’, ‘As The Pages Burn’, ‘No More Regrets’, ‘Stolen Life’, ‘Avalanche’ – are built around miles and miles of melody-based hooks that never get dull. And even when it sounds like there’s potential for cheesy softness around the edges, as on ‘You Will Know My Name’ and ‘Time Is Black’ (thanks to the latter’s symphonic / keyboard backbone) the damn hook-and-melody attack works wonders. And there’s the title track, a bloody anthem for the ages that I daresay may be one of the finest Arch Enemy songs ever written, second only to ‘Nemesis’. Depends on how you like your AE, of course, but what may sound like head-in-the-clouds accolades will at least give you an idea of the infectious high quality of the material. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Dutch bashers Delain are gearing up for the international release of their new album, The Human Contradiction, in April. A buzz has been growing around the album for the last couple weeks, particularly with the news that it will feature guest appearances by vocalists Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage) and Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist, Kamelot). Catching up with singer Charlotte Wessels for a BW&BK interview, we kicked things off with discussion of mutual friend Alissa’s efforts on The Human Contradiction’s closing track, ‘The Tragedy Of The Commons’:

Delain 1

“I was, of course, aware of what The Agonist does and I know some of the songs, so I knew what Alissa was capable of vocally,” Charlotte says of asking Alissa on board. “Back then I’d just spent a month with her on the Kamelot tour, and what she does with them is such a different thing. After I saw The Agonist play for the first time I told her that I was amazed those two voices actually come from the same person (laughs). I’m very impressed by that because seeing Alissa on YouTube and seeing her perform live are two very different things. And as I’d only seen her perform with Kamelot up to that point there was a big difference, and that did surprise me (laughs).” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

This interview took place towards the end of Kamelot’s 2013 European tour in support of their latest album, Silverthorn. By all accounts – band, fans, YouTube footage – it was a successful run that saw the band play to packed houses every night. The show on this particular night, in Munich, went off without a hitch as far as anyone on the floor could tell, with Kamelot attacking the stage like the seasoned veterans they are, playing to the audience rather than merely for them, accompanied by one of the most impressive lightshows ever seen in a rock club (seriously… and without pyro). It was a far cry from the band’s first European tour – their first road trip ever, in fact – back in 1998 with Elegy, which showcased a band that was understandably green performing to half empty rooms. A potentially demoralizing experience on one hand, but the taste was enough to make Kamelot want to push forward. Success at a level where the band became a day job was along time coming, but it’s a testament to what can be accomplished when you focus on and devote your time and energy to something you really want.

Kamelot 2_1

“You don’t have any pictures from that ’98 tour, do you?” laughs guitarist Thomas Youngblood.

Actually, I do. I’ll wait to be tapped for the Kamelot biography to publish them.

“When you get started you want to be like Iron Maiden, but then you start realizing how difficult that is,” says Youngblood with regards to the band’s success. “But the way things are nowadays in the industry, there aren’t a lot of bands that can get to that level. I think we’re fortunate we’ve been able to grow and maintain this band over the past 15 years. That’s pretty amazing. I think it’s a testament to working hard and making some smart decisions, and having killer fans.”

Kamelot’s biggest test came with the surprise departure of vocalist Roy Khan in September 2010, mere days before the Poetry For The Poisoned tour was due to begin. The band downplayed the seriousness of the situation at the time – they could realistically have lost their collective shirt financially due to pre-tour expenses and unfulfilled contracts – and managed to save face by finding the best possible replacement for Khan in Swedish singer Tommy Karevik.

“We didn’t think anything bad about that in terms of coming out of it intact,” Youngblood insists. “I’ve seen a lot of bands do that successfully, and I think a lot of people forget how many acts have actually had to do that. We’ve grown into different territories since then. We played Australia for the first time with Silverthorn, we’ve done different parts of Asia like Korea and Taiwan, and the US is a much bigger market for us now.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

In spite of what you may have heard, Mephisto is in fact French Canadian. And female.

This is a well worn fact amongst Kamelot fans, as vocalist Alissa White-Gluz – best known for fronting The Agonist – has played the role for the band’s epic set-closing ‘March Of Mephisto’ for over a year. And with all due respect to the other singers that have taken on the part since the song came to life on The Black Halo album – Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir), Snowy Shaw (Therion), Mark Jansen (Epica), Alexander Krull (Atrocity, Leaves’ Eyes), Paul Zinay (Blackguard) – Alissa owns it, hands down. You’d be hard pressed to find a Kamelot fan to argue against the suggestion that she’s become an integral part of the show.

Alissa1_1

“I’m doing what Elize was doing before,” Alissa says of her work with Kamelot, referring to Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd. “I do her parts as well as my own, like on ‘Sacrimony’, backing vocals, and the female voices that turn up in the band’s other songs. It’s a totally different show from The Agonist, which is funny because Kamelot toured with Delain in the US and the first show of The Agonist’s European tour was where Charlotte (Wessels/vocals) from Delain lives. She came to see us play and she was like ‘What the hell? You’re a completely different person up there…’ (laughs). She saw me doing the Kamelot thing for a month, so she was shocked to see how the whole death metal vocals are a big part of what I do outside of Kamelot. It was a lot of fun.”

Anyone familiar with The Agonist never would have figured on Alissa taking a job with a symphonic power metal outfit. Take a listen to any song in their catalogue other than her a capella rendition of ‘Swan Lake’ and you can’t hear the connection. Alissa will tell you different, however, and that she’s actually drawn to Kamelot’s sound.

“I think it’s because even though I perform the death metal stuff I’m not a death metal person. As much as I love the heaviness of The Agonist’s songs, it’s fun to actually be able to hear what’s going on in the music (laughs).”

As for switching from her hell bent Agonist attack to a slightly more civilized approach for Kamelot, Alissa reveals that switching gears wasn’t a problem ever after jumping from one European tour to another in the space of a week.

“I thought it would be hard to switch between the two but it was actually super easy. The thing is, I’ve always wanted to be a drummer or something where I could just sit back and watch the show, and not have too much attention on me. Now I’m kind of doing that with Kamelot, which is cool.” Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

Amaranthe4The day before this interview went down, Swedish/Danish outfit Amaranthe released their new album The Nexus, which promptly hit #1 on the US iTunes heavy metal charts, beating out the likes of Volbeat and Anthrax for top spot. In the days that followed the album did similar damage on rock, alternative and metal charts across Scandinavia, and landed on the Soundscan Heatseeker and Hard Music charts in the US. To top it off, Amaranthe were still on the road in Europe at press time on a co-headlining tour with Stratovarius playing to packed houses every night (including one memorable evening when Stratovarius had to cancel due to illness). Huge achievements for a band that has supposedly been under the radar since the release of their self-titled debut in 2011, and definitely a jump start towards bigger and better things.

Not to take away from Amaranthe’s current shine, but part of the reason for this current buzz is singer Elize Ryd, who has toured with Florida-based Kamelot as a backing vocalist for the last four years and hit the studio for their latest record, Silverthorn. The ongoing collaboration has been a blessing for an up-and-coming young band like Amaranthe trying to gain a foothold in the big leagues.

“I think working with Kamelot has had an effect,” Elize agrees, “because we have a lot of fans in South America and in North America, and I’ve been on tour with Kamelot in those territories. I was with them when they supported Nightwish on top of that, and Nightwish have a huge audience.”

As for how she became involved with Kamelot in the first place…

Elize: “From the beginning, when we started Amaranthe, we didn’t have a lot of shows so I had a lot of free time…”

Male clean vocalist Jake E. picks up the thread: “The whole story is like this: I used to be a pyro-technician and I toured with every band out there. We started this project called Amaranthe, and I was great friends with Kamelot so they asked me if we’d like to go on tour and if they could ‘borrow’ Elize. We actually did two tours with them, when I was also a back-up singer, so we were pulling double duty. Then we grew, of course, so Elize works with them when she has the time. This year, for example, it’s totally impossible…”

The depth of Elize’s involvement with Kamelot has increased over the last four years, to the point she’s become a recognizable part of the band’s roster. Amaranthe is her first priority, but going in to record The Nexus still ended up being a balancing act. Continue Reading

By Carl Begai

On September 28th, 2012 in Denver, Colorado fans of Finnish bashers Nightwish witnessed something special at the Ogden Theater. So special, in fact, that if everyone who claims they attended the show was actually there the venue would have literally burst at the seams.

To recap, now ex-Nightwish vocalist Anette Olzon fell seriously ill prior to the show and was hospitalized. Her bandmates had the difficult task of choosing between cancelling the gig and going ahead with support band Kamelot’s backing vocalists Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) and Alissa White-Gluz (The Agonist) in Olzon’s place. With the audience’s blessing they chose the latter, resulting an unforgettable and historic show. Elize, Alissa and Nightwish were applauded for their efforts by seemingly everyone except Olzon, who made her rather ungrateful opinions known the next day via an online post. A few days later – October 1st, 2012 – Olzon was officially given the boot and the tour continued with ReVamp / ex-After Forever singer Floor Jansen fronting the band.

Elize 2

During a BW&BK interview (found here) for Amaranthe’s new album, The Nexus, Elize discussed the unexpected once in a lifetime experience. Note that we kept any behind-the-scenes dirt regarding the disintegration between Nightwish and Anette out of the conversation, so if you’re a tabloid drama junkie you’ll be disappointed by what you’re about to read.

“It was a very special thing,” Elize says of the night. “I love Nightwish and I’ve sung their songs many times for myself (laughs). When you’re on tour you’re in a little bubble, so you don’t really think too much about what’s happening outside that bubble. They asked me if I would be willing to sing for them that night, and we decided that if the audience agreed it was okay for them that I sing, of course I was going to help Nightwish out so they could do the show. At least with some singing so they wouldn’t have to do it all instrumental.” Continue Reading

Since there’s no NHL hockey season thanks to certain greedy sons of bitches, you can brush up on your Canuck metal below:

Blackguard are back on the road yet again, only this time they’re on the other side of the pond on the highly anticipated Kamelot tour. This is going to be huge for the band in the Kamelot are a huge draw right across Europe, and the band’s new Silverthorn has been receiving rave rviews across the board. Vocalist Paul Zinay recently commented on the trek:

“We had a blast conquering North America with Kamelot and now it’s time to conquer some new territories. We are very honored that we were asked to join them on this tour and we’d like to give our deepest thanks and gratitude to Thomas (Youngblood / guitars) and all of the Kamelot crew for extending us this invitation. This will be the last tour supporting our latest album Firefight and we can’t imagine ending on a higher note than this.”

Blackguard is due to release their new album, Storm, in the spring of 2013 via Victory Records. Continue Reading

Anyone who knows me knows where I stand on the subject of downloading music illegally. In a nutshell, trying to convince me that it’s okay – or even a good thing – is a surefire way to get an invitation to fuck off and die. Painfully. Unfortunately, standing on my iron soapbox yelling “Keyboard Warrior baaaaaaad!” doesn’t really get the message across a lot of the time, probably because I’m a journalist and supposedly we’re all a bunch of spoiled elitist snobs.

That said, Alissa White-Gluz of the Montreal band The Agonist recently posted a breakdown of what bands go through to make a so-called living with their art. I suggest that anyone who claims to be a fan of metal and music in general take a look at her words below. It’s a feast for thought.

For the kiddies, I hope it’s an eye-opener that sticks to the insides of your heads. For the adults that should know better, choke on it and start buying your music, you thieving scum.

“Here’s a little insider info just to clarify, since a lot of people don’t understand how the industry now works. We would feel bad divulging this kind of info and shattering the dream, but a lot of metal musicians seem to be doing it nowadays so I think we’re ok to do so as well.

Why are we asking you to buy the album? We don’t see money from album sales. We have never seen a single royalty penny. But, if your band is known to sell a lot of albums, especially in the first week of release, you get more offers for tours, therefore making it more possible to play to more fans.

Ticket Money: As an opener, we do not see any money from ticket sales or have any control over ticket price. As a headliner we rarely see any money from ticket sales as well.

YouTube: If you think we are making money off of YouTube plays, check out who’s channel our videos are on (Hint: It ain’t our channel!;)) Again, we’ve never seen a penny from YouTube plays. Continue Reading

More noise from the Hoser Empire. Read on…

Kittie are gearing up to hit the road in support of their new album, I’ve Failed You. Following what are essentially warm-up shows in London and Toronto, they’ll head down to Australia for a string of dates on the Soundwave Festival tour. Upon their return, the ladies will spend most of April and May on the road in Canada and the US. The tour is an all-Canuck affair, with Blackguard and The Agonist – both out of Montreal – as main support. Putting the “eh!” in metal, indeed 🙂 Go to this location for the complete schedule.

In addition, Kittie will perform at the Toronto tribute show for Woods Of Ypres founder / frontman David Gold on April 5th at the Wreckroom. In a recent interview with Morgan, she mentioned to me that Kittie might perform a Woods song during their set. Stay tuned for updates, click here for details on David’s tribute show, which also includes Eclipse Eternal and Novembers Doom on the bill. Continue Reading