You know, one of the curious things about being part of this great, rich and diverse community called heavy metal is something of almost an inbuilt predisposition to want to like everyone who is flying the flag for this music we love. If we were being honest with ourselves though, not every band nails it, not every band has a Reign in Blood or Master of Puppets or (insert classic album of your choice here). Some bands, if we were being really really honest, really have no beginning to their talent.
This brings me neatly to Canadian metalcore outfit The Agonist and their third album, Prisoners. You may be familiar with this band’s oeuvre- and I use the word deliberately, not because they come from Quebec but because they love all of this pretentious bobbins. Prisoners is the band’s latest outing of their particular brand of metalcore/melodic death metal and, in their own terms, it’s several steps forward in their progression as a band. If I was being charitable, I would say that there is a level of proficiency, a good degree of effective song construction and the vocal histrionics of Alissa White-Gluz are determined to give Angela Gossow a serious run for their money.
However, I don’t feel charitable. In fact, I don’t feel much at all. Prisoners left me cold, not a little irritated and, intermittently, shouting at my stereo at the entire contrived and shabby mess of it. This is melodic death metal for people who spend all of their time cultivating their “scene” membership; it’s death metal for mallrats and small minds. This is studied, arch, pretentious nonsense. It is music that is constructed for a demographic, an exercise in box ticking and without soul, heart or warmth.
I do not doubt the seriousness of intent of the band and I bear them no ill will but honestly any one who calls a song Revenge of the Dadaists really needs to have a word with themselves. In a similar vein, Anxious Darwinians had me wondering whether there was enough facepalm left in the world. I have little doubt that many people will adore this stuff and bleat on about how very contemporary and outre (yes, I did that deliberately again) they are, whilst throwing in some remarks about the attractiveness of the band’s lead singer. They will use words like “powerful”, “epic” and “phenomenal”. They are either far too easily pleased. Or wrong. Or both.
You “might” be thinking I didn’t like it. You “might” be right. I have better things to do than put up with this. So, I won’t. You might like this kinda thing- I thought it was contrived and irritating in equal measure. I’m off to listen to the Rush album again.