Music / The Agonist

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The current line-up: From left to right: Danny, Paco, Vicky, Chris, Simon.

Does history guide you, or do you set out to change it?
Business Suits and Combat Boots

The Agonist (formerly known as The Tempest) is a Canadian Melodic Death Metal/metalcore band from Montreal, characterised by topical lyrics, complex guitar work and a female lead who can sing (well) in both clean and growling vocals.

Their lyrics often consider themes such as animal rights, social injustice and other contemporary issues. This fits in with the band's name: "Agonist" means initiator/starter of something.

In March of 2014, Alissa White-Gluz announced that she had been chosen as the next frontwoman for Arch-Enemy. She also revealed that the band - as fans knew it - was "over", and that Vicky Psarakis would be taking over as vocalist. Though the change has inevitably produced some Internet Backdraft, the band have taken it in stride and produced two albums since: Eye of Providence in 2015, and Five in 2016.

Their current line-up is:
  • Vicky Psarakais - Vocals (2014 - )
  • Danny Marino - Guitar (2004 - )
  • Chris Kells - Bass, Background Growls (2004 - )
  • Simon McKay - Drums, Live Drums (2007 - )
  • Pascal "Paco" Jobin - Guitar (2010 - )

Former members include:
  • Derek Nadon - Drums (? - 2007)
  • Andrew Tapley - Guitar (2008 - 2009)
  • Chris Adolph - Guitar on tour (2009)
  • Justin Deguire - Guitar on tour (2011)
  • Alissa White-Gluz - Vocals, Lyrics, Planning of the Album Artwork (2004 - 2014)

So far they have released four studio albums, one EP and one single:
  • Once Only Imagined (2007)
  • Lullabies For The Dormant Mind (2009)
  • The Escape (EP) (2011)
  • Prisoners (2012)
  • Disconnect Me (Single) (2014)
  • Eye of Providence (2015)
  • Five (2016)

And they have music videos for:


The Agonist provide examples of:

  • A Day in the Limelight - "Waiting Out The Winter" (written by Simon), "I Endeavor" (written by Paco)
  • Accent On The Wrong Syllable - Quite frequent on Prisoners in particular, probably as a result of squeezing sophisticated lyrics into unconventional rhythms. It's also noticeable in "Thank You, Pain" ("it's not only my afTERlife I bereave" and "think about the STATistics you feed"). This is more or less a result of how Alissa wrote the lyrics and her accent. Ever since Vicky joined this hasn't been an issue due to her more straightforward lyrics on Eye of Providence and Five.
  • Air Guitar - How Danny comes up with his riffs.
  • All Drummers Are Animals - Averted. Simon is a friendly, funny guy with frequent moments of Crazy Awesome.
  • All Men Are Perverts - Simon, apparently; he tried hitting on Alissa at his audition. Might have just been a one-off though (see All Drummers Are Animals above).
  • Almighty Janitor - Kells, who provides both bass backing for Danny and Paco, and vocal backing for Alissa/Vicky. He is also very active in engaging the crowd during live shows, handles a lot of band photography and even directs some of their music videos!
  • Altum Videtur - "Memento Mori" and "Globus Hystericus."
  • Apathetic Citizens - Alissa's Berserk Button.
  • Ask a Stupid Question... - When asked by an interviewer what the most important thing to have with him when inspiration struck was, Danny replied "For music? A guitar. For lyrics? A pen."
  • Audience Participation Song - "Thank You, Pain" is an audience participation video casting Alissa as a defendent, death-growl Alissa as a judge, and the audience as the jury.
  • Badass Beard - Paco has a pretty mighty one (and it has become something of a Memetic Mutation among the band).
  • Belief Makes You Stupid - "Predator and Prayer" takes this line, advocating a more existentialist worldview. "Follow The Crossed Line" has a similar message.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed - "The Sentient"
    "Euthanasia is a crimeless death penalty , but it's still better than what they get when they're tortured, brutally murdered, because some fucking coward can't make a clean living."
  • The Cameo - Youri Raymond from Cryptopsy and Unhuman on Lullabies for the Dormant Mind. Also Melina Soochan, Avi Ludmer and Jonathan Lefrancois Leduc (Blackguard) performing additional instruments. Their producer even got in a few sneaky Metal Screams on their first single "Business Suits and Combat Boots."
    • In turn Alissa has cameo'd in songs for Synastry, The Plasmarifle, Blackguard, Erimha and Kamelot! You can see her wearing a Plasmarifle t-shirt at the end of the "Business Suits" music video.
  • Chick Magnet - Paco Jobin (nuff' said) and Alissa is a Clueless Chick Magnet. (When it comes to guys, Alissa is fully aware of the Chick Magnet status. Just read some of the youtube comments.)
  • Creepy Children Singing - Employed in "Predator and Prayer," in a similar vein to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall."
    Choir: "We hear you, we don't care. We hear you, we don't care..."
  • Concept Video - "Thank You, Pain" (verging on surreal).
  • Costume Porn - Alissa's stage outfits. Generally averted by Vicky.
  • Couch Gag - Kells often introduces the band with "We are the Agonist, and we're here to X", where X is usually an Amusing Injury resulting from The Power of Rock.
  • Dawn of an Era - Alissa pauses in the middle of "Predator and Prayer" to deliver such a speech, which turns into a Metal Scream by the end. Vicky does the same thing in "The Ocean."
  • Determinator - They don't stop their gigs for injuries, sickness, car breakdowns, headliners pulling out of tours, or even natural disasters.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil - justified.
  • Distracted By The Shiny - In one interview with Skulls n Bones, Alissa stops mid-sentence to point out a typo on a passing van.
  • Dramatic Pause - In a few songs; sometimes by the whole band (eg. "Lonely Solipsist"), sometimes by Alissa/Vicky alone.
  • Dress Rehearsal Video - "...And Their Eulogies Sang Me To Sleep," "Thank You, Pain" and "Business Suits and Combat Boots"
  • Epic Rocking - "Ideomotor" (which, incidentally, they love playing live) and "As Above, So Below," both clocking in at about 8 minutes. However they tend to play the shorter version of Ideomotor live which is 6 minutes long.
  • Ethereal Choir - "Swan Lake"
    • Also in the background of quite a few other songs, such as "Predator and Prayer."
  • Even the Girls Want Her - Alissa. I'm just just going to leave other tropes she fits into and are related to this trope: The Charmer, I Didn't Mean to Turn You On and Stupid Sexy Alissa.
  • Executive Meddling - Parodied in the music video for "Gates of Horn and Ivory," where the video directors try to turn the band into a Glam Metal group. Unsurprisingly, the band take the song's lyrical theme to heart and Start Their Own music video.
  • Final Solution - "Born Dead, Buried Alive" references the Trope Namer. It is probably worth noting that Alissa is of Jewish heritage, and lost family members in the Holocaust.
  • First Time Feeling - "I Endeavor"
  • Foreshadowing - "Synopsis," the slightly Mind Screwy intro from their first album, contains a distorted vocal excerpt of "Rise and Fall."
  • Friendly Rivalry - Kells and Paco occasionally try to one-up each other during live shows.
  • Genre-Busting - The band has variously been described as Melodic Death Metal, Metalcore (due to their use of breakdowns and alternating clean/harsh vocals) and Deathcore, and they also have some progressive elements (which have become prominent in their more recent work).
  • Gratuitous French - At the end of "Martyr Art," and at the start of "Revenge of the Dadaists." Less gratuitous than most, however, seeing as they're from Quebec.
    • Martyr Art - Accablées de misère en décembre, les muses se baignent en flammes.Noyées dans l'ombre elles disparaissent, attendant le divin pientre de l'Univers, le Soliel
      • Revenge of the Dadaists - Sont-ils prisonniers? Devrais-je les libérer?
  • Green Aesop - Many of their songs touch on this ("Business Suits and Combat Boots," "Globus Hystericus" and "The Sentient" being the most obvious ones, though even those tend to deal with a great deal more than just environmental issues).
  • Harsher in Hindsight - A certain promo photo for Prisoners depicts Alissa and the other band members having a violent falling out. It gets worse when you realise it's the last album she did with them.
  • Humans Are Flawed - A theme in many of their songs ("Thank You, Pain," among others).
  • I Am the Band: As of 2014, Danny Marino.
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On - It's fair to say that the entire band, past and present, are a rather attractive bunch.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics - On occasion. Alissa is aware of this, and has stated that she thinks it would be cool if someone made a misheard lyrics video.
    • Less prominent with Vicky, whose growling style is slightly deeper and slower, and thus more understandable. Compare and contrast.
  • In the Hood - Danny, quite often (though not when he is on stage).
  • Last-Name Basis - Chris Kells, notable because every other member of the band usually uses their first name.
  • Last Note Nightmare - In "Everybody Wants You (Dead)." A Mind Screw-y Subdued Section is followed by a discordant wall of noise with Alissa screaming in the background.
  • Lead Bassist: Kells is a type B.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair! - Discussed in "Globus Hystericus" and also touched upon in "The Tempest" (along with Who Wants to Live Forever?).
  • Male Band, Female Singer: First with Alissa White-Gluz and later with Vicky Psarakis.
  • Master Race - The concept is venomously attacked in "Born Dead, Buried Alive."
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor - Alissa, whose somewhat stern stage persona was in contrast to the much more friendly way she comes across in interviews and videos. She seems to have dropped this (or is just more comfortable) since joining Arch Enemy.
    • Vicky on the other hand is straight-up Nice Character Nice Actor.
  • Metal Scream - Probably 60-70 percent of the vocals, up until Eye of Providence where it drops to maybe 40-50.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - Excluding acoustic numbers like "Swan Lake" and "A Gentle Disease," they range from a standard 8 ("Void of Sympathy") to a hard 9 ("Panophobia").
    • Their hardest song, which is a very solid 10, is "...And their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep" (though as of Five, "The Resurrection" is a close contender).
  • Morality Ballad - Well, more like Morality Mosh, but a lot of their songs have An Aesop for you to think about.
  • Motor Mouth - Usually during the Guttural Growler sections of songs.
  • Murder Ballad - "The Raven Eyes."
  • My Car Hates Me - Their touring van, "the blue hornet", has a habit of breaking down in the worst possible places.
    • Tonight, Someone Dies - They are going to get their revenge by destroying it on film, and are taking suggestions from fans as to how they should do it.
    Simon: "Baseball bats, spiked clubs, grenades, TNT...do you think we could procure a flamethrower?"
  • New Sound Album - They like this trope:
    • Lullabies for the Dormant Mind was overall faster and had less emphasis on breakdowns, along with a more pronounced Melodic Death Metal influence.
    • Prisoners had more Progressive Metal influences than both of the earlier albums. This probably has to do with them being from the Canadian Death Metal scene, which is big on the more aggressive prog metal.
    • Eye of Providence was the most varied, wandering up and down the Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness (which was deliberate as the band wanted to try out new ideas and take advantage of a more collaborative song-writing process with their new vocalist) but was generally more melodic than Prisoners.
    • Five verged on being a concept album, and had a much grimier sound (especially in the vocals).
  • Non-Appearing Title - Lots.
  • Not So Omniscient After All - Covered in "Rise and Fall" and "The Sentient.:
  • Pimped-Out Dress - Alissa in the "Thank You, Pain" music video.
  • Precision F-Strike - All over the place. Usually signifies that Alissa is pissed about something (usually humans in general).
  • Protest Song - Again, lots of them.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis! - In "Trophy Kill" ("Fuck! You! Fucking hypocrite!")
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni - A minor but noticeable case with the band's singers: Alissa's stage persona was very stern and controlled (see Mean Character, Nice Actor), while Vicky tends to smile more and mess around with the other band members during instrumental sections.
  • Screw Destiny - "Gates of Horn and Ivory"
  • Self-Backing Vocalist - Alissa (and Vicky) after Lullabies For The Dormant Mind. Kells did the backing in Once Only Imagined (and continues to do some at live shows).
  • Serial Escalation - The ongoing competition between Alissa's (and now Vicky's) whiplash vocals, the three guitarists' Epic Riffs and Simon's ludicrously fast drumming. Arguably toned down after peaking with Prisoners.
  • Signature Move - Kells and Paco have one: holding down the frets of each others' guitars during instrumental sections.
  • Simple Score of Sadness - The end of "Business Suits and Combat Boots."
  • Sixth Ranger - The two most notable are Pascal (Paco) Jobin, who joined the band in 2010, and Vicky Psarakis who replaced Alissa in 2014.
  • Something Completely Different - The all-acoustic "A Gentle Disease" and "The Raven Eyes," which also had music videos made.
    • According to the band, this is also why Five opens with the mid-tempo "The Moment" (rather than the more aggressive "The Chain," which would have been more like "Gates of Horn and Ivory" was for Eye of Providence).
  • Soprano and Gravel - In this case, both provided by the same singer.
  • Subdued Section - Both within the context of the album ("Chiaroscuro" for Once Only Imagined, "Swan Lake" for Lullabies, "A Gentle Disease" for Eye of Providence and "The Raven Eyes"/"The Wake" for Five), and within individual songs (such as "Void of Sympathy," "Chlorpromazine," and several songs on Prisoners and Five).
  • Talking to Herself - "Thank You, Pain."
  • Technician Vs Performer - A mild example: Danny comes up with intricate and technical riffs, to which Paco adds shredding solos. This carries over to live shows, where Danny is generally the most subdued of the three guitarists.
  • Titled After the Song - Inverted with "The Tempest," which was the original band name.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl - Vicky and Alissa. While Alissa's stage outfits mainly consist of leggings and trousers, she otherwise prefers dresses and skirts. Vicky seems to be more tomboyish (but not without her girly traits). She seems to like wearing trousers.
  • Torture Cellar - The music video for "My Witness, Your Victim" features one of these, where a Gas Mask Mook (who turns out to be Vicky) is torturing some poor guy, apparently under orders from a nearby speaker.
    • Dramatic Unmask - The Mook then comes to their senses, takes off their mask and smashes the speaker instead.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change - "Chlorpromazine," where Alissa's growl rises to a shriek after the bridge.
  • Walking Disaster Area - An alarming number of their gigs have coincided with various natural disasters.
    Alissa: I feel like as a band we are sync'd with nature in the worst way possible.
    • It's possible that Alissa is just The Jinx, given that there have been no notable disasters since she left the band, but on her first tour with Arch-Enemy she broke her ribs.
  • We Used to Be Friends - Alissa and the guys do NOT want anything to do with each other anymore. See Broken Base for a summary, which should probably stay as a summary.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever? - "Perpetual Notion"
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair - Alissa, most of the time. Vicky, on the other hand, seems to prefer blonde.
    • Alissa's other hair colours include: red, purple and blonde (her natural colour).
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle - "Born Dead, Buried Alive" sounds like it's about to end on a long, fading guitar chord, then cuts back in and plays for another 30 seconds.

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