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Music / The Agonist

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The current lineup. L-R: Simon, Danny, Vicky, Paco, Kells

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 challenger.

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. After bouts of touring, The Agonist went into production of their sixth album Orphans, slated for release in late 2019.


Their current line-up is:
  • Danny Marino - lead guitar (2004-present)
  • Chris Kells - bass, backing vocals (2004-present)
  • Simon McKay - drums (2007-present)
  • Pascal "Paco" Jobin - rhythm guitar (2010-present)
  • Vicky Psarakis - lead vocals (2014-present)

Former members include:

  • Derek Nadon - drums (2004-2007)
  • Andrew Tapley - rhythm guitar (2008-2009)
  • Chris Adolph - touring rhythm guitar (2009)
  • Justin Deguire - touring rhythm guitar (2011)
  • Alissa White-Gluz - lead vocals, lyrics, artwork planning (2004-2014)

    Discography and videos 

Thank you, tropes.

  • 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.
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  • Air Guitar: How Danny comes up with his riffs.
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Despite his thing for Caffeine Bullet Time, Simon is actually a friendly, funny guy.
    • All Men Are Perverts: Apparently, Simon tried hitting on Alissa at his audition. Might have just been a one-off though.
  • 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!
  • And I Must Scream: Parts of "...And Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep" and the first verse to "The Resurrection" seethe with this trope.
  • 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 clean Alissa as a defendant, death-growl Alissa as a judge, and the audience as the jury.
  • Badass Beard: Paco has a pretty mighty one.
  • 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.
  • Call-Back: In “The Trial” to “The Raven Eyes” from several songs earlier.
    “Pour that man another, 'cause he might let you bleed...if you’re nice.”
  • 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.)
  • Concept Album: Five comes close to being one.
  • 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.
  • Cover Version: They’ve done ones for “Monochromatic Stains” by Dark Tranquility, and “Take Me to Church” by Hozier.
  • 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.
  • 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", "Business Suits and Combat Boots", “A Gentle Disease”, “The Hunt” and “Take Me to Church”.
    • “Gates of Horn and Ivory” is a comedic variation, showing the band being forced to prepare for a music video in Hair Metal outfits, before storming out and performing a more traditional one.
  • Elements of Nature: "The Moment".
  • 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" is an ethereal choir of Alissas.
    • Also in the background of quite a few other songs, such as "Predator and Prayer."
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Alissa. Also The Charmer, I Didn't Mean to Turn You On and Stupid Sexy Alissa.
  • 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".
    Is this a blessing or a curse?
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Foreshadowing: "Synopsis," the slightly Mind Screwy intro from their first album, contains a distorted vocal excerpt of "Rise and Fall."
    • "The Wake" is basically an orchestral prologue to "The Resurrection".
  • 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 are 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?
  • Gratuitous Greek: Among the sneak peek videos the band posted on Twitter for their third album with Vicky, this one showed her singing in Greek. Incidentally the word "agonist" is etymologically Greek, and Greek-American Vicky grew up in Athens.
  • 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).
  • Grim Reaper: Appears in “The Raven Eyes” video as a sinister, balaclava’d figure attending several suicide victims and a sick child. He doesn’t seem to enjoy the job very much.
  • Humans Are Flawed: A theme in many of their songs ("Thank You, Pain," among others).
  • "I Am" Song: "The Ocean", natch.
  • 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 (was?) 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. Subverted by way of a few more lines within the last 20 seconds of the song.
  • 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."
  • Metal Scream: Probably 60-70 percent of the vocals, up until Eye of Providence where it drops to maybe 40-50.
    • Vocal Evolution:
      • Alissa started out with deep grunts (compare with Angela Gossow's earlier Arch Enemy material) in Once Only Imagined. In Lullabies for the Dormant Mind, she has developed her voice to chameleon-level Metal Scream, able to pull off all 4 types within a single song (e.g. "And Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep"). Since Prisoners she has stuck to Type 1 with the other types as embellishment, as with her live performances.
      • Vicky, pre-Agonist, used to stick to Type 4 in some of her metal covers. In Eye of Providence she honed her Type 1 soaring on a range as high as Alissa's type 3. Her Harsh Vocals in Five are a grimier and more forceful Type 1 with moments of Type 4, particularly in "The Man Who Fell to Earth". As of Orphans she chose to hone her type 3 and 4, though the end of "In Vertigo" demonstrated her ability to pull off outright Type 2 gutturals that even Alissa never quite managed to pull off.
  • 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." As of 2019, "In Vertigo" and to some extent "The Villain" seem to rival this.
  • Mood Whiplash: "In Vertigo" starts off with nothing but a soft piano under Vicky's soothing vocals. The band comes in like a sudden tidal wave of Black Metal-esque soundstorm after over 40 seconds.
  • 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" sounds like one, but since the subject is the Grim Reaper it could also be interpreted as Mercy Kill.
  • My Car Hates Me: Their touring van, "the blue hornet", had a habit of breaking down in the worst possible places.
    • Tonight, Someone Dies: They promised to get their revenge by destroying it on film, and took suggestions from fans as to how they should do it.
    Simon: "Baseball bats, spiked clubs, grenades, you think we could procure a flamethrower?"
  • New Sound Album: They love 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 Quite Dead: "The Resurrection".
  • Not So Omniscient After All: Covered in "Rise and Fall" and "The Sentient".
  • Pep-Talk Song: "In Vertigo" has shades of this.
    Wake up to see the tiny world at your feet
    A giant surprise, yours alone to meet
    There's no way up, so don't wallow in fear
    No need to drown in a pool of your own tears
  • Performance Video: The videos for “Panophobia” and “Follow the Crossed Line” are made up of clips from the band’s live performances.
  • Pet the Dog: Literally speaking, Simon, who adopted this cutie rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea in 2018. The good boy's name is Gochu and he now has his own Instagram.
  • 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). So far Vicky has avoided this.
  • 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, 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) since 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).
      • Five also features an unexpected, orchestral-sounding instrumental (“The Wake”) in between “The Raven Eyes” and “The Resurrection”.
  • Soprano and Gravel: In this case, both provided by the same singer.
    • Vicky sometimes leaves the deeper Harsh Vocals to Kells. They often exchange gravel on live gigs.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • The "The" Title: Every song (except the bonus track) on Five.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: “The Moment” is, by the band’s standards, very simple, and is coupled with thoughtful, introspective lyrics.
  • Title Track: Orphans is the first album to have one. The closest they got beforehand was two instances of Album Title Drop: "Ideomotor" (We are all prisoners of waterfalls) and "My Witness, Your Victim" (We will attend the eye of providence).
  • Titled After the Song: Inverted with "The Tempest," which was the original band name.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Alissa and Vicky are two different flavors of this. Alissa's girly streak tends to show in her preference for fancy fashion during photoshoots and live gigs, and continues to do so beyond her Agonist tenure. Vicky, on the other hand, prefers practical getup but shows her own girly streak foremost in having a more feminine singing voice than Alissa, and secondarily in her love for makeup and having Rapunzel Hair.
  • Torture Cellar: The music video for "My Witness, Your Victim" features one of these, where a Gas Mask Mook 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, revealing Vicky, and smashes the speaker instead.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Chlorpromazine," where Alissa's growl rises to a shriek after the bridge.
  • Villain Song: “The Villain”, naturally. It focuses on Not So Different (“I’m no villain, I am just like you!”) with a measure of Hoist by His Own Petard thrown in.
    The only grave worth lying the one you dig yourseeeeelf!
  • 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. Her other favored hair colors include red, purple, black, and blonde (her natural color).
    • Vicky bleached around the time she joined the band, but lately has welcomed back her natural brunette hair.
  • 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.
    • "Ideomotor". See Epic Rocking above.
    • The video for "A Gentle Disease" ends after Vicky sings, but the album version continues on with Danny's low arpeggio on the acoustic.


Example of: