The Agonist – Days Before the World Wept

Anyone who heard 2019’s Orphans LP will know that The Agonist produced a bona fide album of the year contender on their last effort. The remarkable vocal range of Vicky Psarakis and the dazzling guitar work of Danny Marino are a big part of their anthemic metal onslaught, but many still remember them as the band co-founded by Alissa White-Gluz, who now earns her living in the higher echelons of the entertainment industry as the vocalist for Arch Enemy. The ongoing enmity between White-Gluz and her former bandmates makes for good clickbait on those metal sites that rely on ad revenue to pay their wages, but we’ll leave this nonsense behind for the purpose of this review. Days Before the World Wept is far more than a sideshow in a bigger drama.

With five banging metal tracks to unveil, you wonder if The Agonist are preparing for a subtle change in direction on their next album by having one last blast of theatrical melodeath mayhem. Why else would they toss away songs of this unadulterated metal quality on an EP? Opener, ‘Remnants in Time’ falls somewhere between Machine Head and Cradle of Filth but not before a remorseful piano intro and a raging tech death riff kick off the proceedings. Psarakis’ growled roars are as fierce as Lauren Hart from Once Human but more blood-thirsty in tone, while the multi-tracked chorus harmonies are as soothing as an angel’s lullaby for the residents of a dying city. The gothic orchestras are not even the most pompous aspect of the music, which tells you a lot about the macabre adventure the band have in store for you.

What makes The Agonist such a compelling listen is the certainty that no two songs will sound the same. The rhythm section of Simon McKay (drums), Chris Kells (bass) and Pascal Jobin (rhythm guitar) deserves a lot of credit here, but it’s the virtuoso talent of Danny Marino that elevates them above the pack. With such a versatile vocalist at his disposal, he knows that the music could easily fall into a formulaic framework to focus on the awesome talent of Psarakis. This may explain why every song here goes out of its way to navigate through the most extravagant and technical of thrash riffs at every opportunity. On ‘Immaculate Deception’ the band mix vintage Pantera with the imperious might of Dimmu Borgir as if the two things are heat and water. Die-hard fans will appreciate how they revisit their metalcore roots with a crushing breakdown at the end under the auspices of Psarakis’ brutal cave roar. There’s no doubt which is the standout track here.

At times you forget that The Agonist are a technical band with complex structures, but that’s because they live off a daredevil sense of excitement that could disappear in the tragedy of a spectacular fall at any moment. Whether it’s the neo-classical thrash of ‘Resurrection’ or the darker introspection of ‘Feast on the Living’, there’s always something for everyone with a passing interest in the metal spectrum. Artists like Ice Nine Kills would do well to pay attention to how these Canadians deliver a theatrical metallic performance without compromising their extreme metal tastes. Indeed, The Agonist are sometimes too metal in their enthusiasm for shredding their instruments and pulling the heroic on-stage poses, to the point where you’re tempted to salute them with a smirk on your face and a promise to buy up the entire contents of their merch stand next time you see them in a live setting. You could even bring back the antiquated ‘heavy metal’ term to describe the power and poise of the music here.

Yet the closing title track reminds you that the band are more than just merchants of a metal fantasy. Listen to those delicate guitar passages at the beginning. Marvel at the syncopated slaughter of the verse riffs melting your speakers. This is how to write a six-minute epic with a monumental soprano chorus and a maudlin reflection on questions of mortality. Those of you that clutched your chest for the classic ‘Burn It All Down’ from the last album will be tightening your jaws and assuming the deity worship pose here.

Do we even need to reiterate the point that The Agonist are a tighter unit and a heavier band with Vicky Psarakis at the helm? Of course not…



Release Date: 15/10/2021

Record Label: Napalm Records

Standout tracks: Immaculate Deception, Days Before the World Wept

Suggested Further Listening: Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds (2014), Jinjer – King of Everything (2016), Children of Bodom – Follow the Reaper (2000)