Very often when a band replaces a long-standing singer, the results are fairly lackluster. Rarely does a band replace their frontman without losing the sound their fans have grown to love. However, there are incidents when the replacement singer seems to perfectly fill the void, allowing the group to push forward without losing their vigor. In 2014, THE AGONIST announced that their singer, Alissa White-Gluz, left to take over the microphone with ARCH ENEMY. At the same time, the group announced her replacement as Vicky Psarakis. Naturally, I feared for the future of the group. I was a fan of the first three discs made with Alissa, so I worried that the new vocalist wouldn’t be able to live up her performance.
When I heard about the release of the group’s first full length with the new recruit, I had to give it a spin. So I dug into Eye of Providence, out now via Century Media Records; and much to my delight, I was not disappointed! Vicky stacks up incredibly well, but uses their fourth full-length to present her own identity as frontwoman. However, this does not seem to be the focal point of the disc. Over the course of its thirteen songs, EOP shows the objective was to put forth a solid record despite lineup changes. And if you can’t tell already by my tone, they succeeded in their goal. I may even be safe to assert that they exceeded it; but for the sake of not presenting myself as too much of a fanboy, I’ll leave things at the sufficient mark.
As I review my previous words declaring the proficiency of the new singer, I must point out that one may not be on board with my statement after hearing the album opener, and first single “Gates of Horn and Ivory”. Where the song shows Vicky’s adept screaming talents, it left me seriously questioning the singer’s abilities with clean sections. But my skepticism was completely put to rest by the time follow up track, “My Witness, Your Victim” rails its way to the chorus. “Danse Macabre”, “I Endeavor”, and “Faceless Messenger” continue the propulsion, presenting ambitiously driven thrashers to the listener. Each blends the perfect amount of aggression and melody in a neat and tight little package. “Perpetual Notion” alters the stride a bit by starting off with acoustic guitars and huge chords that sound almost cinematic. The song pairs very well with “Architects Hallucinate” and “The Perfect Embodiment” in holding dramatic theatrical concept; however, the latter plays out much heavier. “A Necessary Evil” and “Disconnect Me” sandwich these tracks with a dense, forceful clout, while the group take things full-on mellow with “A Gentle Disease”. The song revisits the use of acoustic guitars, brining arpeggiated melodies that reflect influences of OPETH mixed with the bluesy/folkier side of LED ZEPPELIN. But rest not, because the disc closes with two thrashers in “Follow the Crossed Line” and “As Above, So Below”.
While I had my reserves about THE AGONIST due to so many groups who had let me down in the past, I can honestly say that they couldn’t have found a more fitting candidate to step into the huge shoes, no; I’m not going to be sexist and say heels, left behind by their previous singer. Vicky Psarakis has made her mark with Eye of Providence, laying down the gauntlet and taking the group to the next level. And, sure, while the band didn’t step outside the lines drawn by previous albums, their sound is still very fresh even after the fourth time around. Few bands can accomplish such a feat after multiple releases. Hell, I’ve heard scores of groups that pilfer rehashed drivel from day one. That said, I highly recommend grabbing this disc. I’m not going to wait this time around. Hop to it. I’ll accept your thanks next time.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM