The Agonist

Live at The Key Club

in Hollywood, CA

December 7th, 2010

Review by Travis Baumann

I was very excited for the Epica tour and have been promoting it here on the site. The supporting acts listed on the tour information up to this point only spoke of Scar Symmetry and Blackguard on the billing, so I wasn't even aware The Agonist were playing until the day of the show. Once I checked out the venue's website for set times, I gave an ecstatic fist in the air and shouted Hell Yeah! The Agonist were playing!

I have been listening to this band for quite some time now, originally finding them while having dreams of traveling to Belgium for this year's Heavenly Voices concert which prompted me to investigate all the awesome female led bands that comprise this annual European festival.

The Agonist had me less than a minute into the first song I listened to, "Rise and Fall". What immediately stands out are the vocals. It's as if some mad scientist made a dream combination of vocal abilities, let's take a heavy dose of Arch Enemy, a sizeable chunk of Afterforever (now ReVamp), add in some Epica and a bit of Echoes of Eternity too.

This dream voice has a name and it is Alissa White-Gluz. She has the ability to snarl out vocals the likes of Angela from Arch Enemy and then suddenly turn directions in the song with a beautiful melodic voice and then with the same suddenness, return to the darkness. At first listening, I thought they must have two different women singing, so I watched the video, and no, it's all her.

The music is exceptional as well, because without the moving thrust of the dual guitar assault mixed with an excellent use of bass and drums to build a head banging rhythm, she would have nothing to react to or act upon.

I was super excited to see them, as I missed them several months ago when they came through. I damn near canceled on traveling to my brother's wedding when I found out they were playing at the same time.

I have to be honest, I didn't think she would be able to pull it off live. The fluctuation in styles is as insane a feat as it is awesome to listen to and I was pretty sure there would be some compromise. I am happy to report that this is completely not the case. She is, simply put, amazing. Alissa astonishingly has the ability to growl out every ferocious line and then on the whip of her hair, switch to perfectly pitched, lush melodic chorus vocals. I was really impressed.

The drummer was hard to see but had a good style, not easily pegged into a sub genre territory but bordering several of them. The bassist sung back up vocals at times where growls and melodic vocal styles overlapped, and a few well placed solo pieces too.  His growls were deeper and appropriately stood apart from her harsh verses.

At times the drum and guitar parts combined into staccato machine gun fire of riffs and beats that induced head banging. It kind of reminded me of Fear Factory or some other awesome band that rode that weird periphery zone of industrial metal in regards to that catchy, driving aspect.

They did a few songs I was not familiar with and then a few of my favorites, and with every song, the audience was just blown away. They opened the set with "Swan Lake" followed by "Tempest". Their third song was a really cool one entitled "Business Suits and Combat Boots". Alissa does all of her own lyrical composition and upon any serious listening you become as absorbed by her intelligence and points of view as you are with her vocal abilities.

"Martyr Art" was up next and this one is a killer. Her aggression puts her up there with the best female singers in the world and honestly, only Angela is in the same category this vocalist is in. Because Alissa can sing so elegantly and melodically in addition, she really stands all on her own.

After "...and Their Eulogies Sang Me To Sleep", she announced "Birds Elope With the Sun". As you can tell from the song titles alone, she has a poetic streak in her as well. I wasn't familiar with this song but it was as striking as everything I had heard so far. They finished up their set with "Thank You Pain" another great song that is as much an anthem as "Rise and Fall" is for this group.

I would have liked to hear another four, or eight songs if possible, but that was it for the night. It was a remarkable live experience and the rest of the audience thought so as well, people were screaming for them to play more and not leave the stage.

After their set, I went down to the merchandise booth to buy a shirt and a CD and Alissa was working the booth herself. I told her how awesome I thought her performance was, which she accepted quite humbly. She signed my purchase of their self titled CD, which I have literally listened to over and over since the show. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

It was a great show and, as I have emphasized, they are more than impressive live.

If you like aggressive metal with a female edge like Arch Enemy, you are really going to like this band, and in my opinion if you like metal at all, you have to hear these guys. Do yourself one better, check out one of their videos, their fun to watch too.

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The Agonist