From the ashes

The Agonist returns with new singer, new album, new tour

By Gary Spencer

Photo: The Agonist will perform on May 8 at Oddbody’s

The parting of a popular lead singer can be a devastating blow to an established band – to the point where some bands never truly recover, and their popularity and creative output dies a painful death. Other bands, however, take it as an opportunity to be reborn – a chance to reinvent themselves to some degree, evolve and keep moving forward. This seems to be the case with Canadian metal band The Agonist, who since 2004 has been a pioneer of female-fronted heavy metal. While the musicians in the band are no slouches themselves, bringing forth an inventive mix of power metal and melodic death metal, a lot of the focus on the group (particularly from the media) had centered on frontwoman and founding member Alissa White-Gluz, whose striking ability to go from clean, soaring singing to guttural death metal growls in a matter of milliseconds created a buzz around the band that made The Agonist a must see, must hear ensemble.

However, in early 2014 all that buzz came to a screeching halt when White-Gluz announced she was chosen to be the new frontwoman for the popular Swedish death metal group Arch Enemy. And while the departure of White-Gluz was certainly a setback for The Agonist, they have managed to bounce back with a new singer in Vicky Psarakis while reinventing their musical game in the process. Their most recent album, Eye of Providence, released in February by Century Media Records, shows The Agonist musically tighter and more focused than they have ever been, while giving ample spotlight for new vocalist Vicky Psarakis to show what she brings to the table. While Psarakis is not quite the growler White-Gluz was, she has a brilliant singing voice that brings a new melodic emphasis to The Agonist’s music that perhaps wasn’t quite as present as before. I recently had a chat with The Agonist’s guitarist, songwriter and founding member Danny Marino about all the changes the band has faced and more.

How would you describe your music to someone unfamiliar with your band?

Danny Marino: The Agonist draws from a lot of different inspiration. We have elements of melodic death metal, progressive metal, thrash, rock, jazz, classical. If I had to name some bands I would say Gojira, Devin Townsend, Opeth, Mastodon, Muse, Circa Survive, The Beatles… the list goes on!

What led to the departure of your former singer Alissa White-Gluz?

DM: When we found out about Alissa joining Arch Enemy it was really late in the game. She had already recorded their album with them, and we actually found out through a third party. It was made clear that it was deliberately hidden from us, basically in a way to manipulate what would happen once it was announced. Alissa wanted Arch Enemy as a priority and The Agonist to go on an indefinite hiatus until she was available. Arch Enemy is one of the busiest touring bands out there and we would have been waiting two years or so! There were four other lives at stake here and we all had The Agonist as our top priority. So we made the decision to continue on with another singer. And our band dynamic has changed a lot as well. There was a lot of frustration when all this first went down, but it was a blessing in disguise for everyone involved. We are a happier and more cohesive group now.

How did you go about finding your new singer Vicky Psakaris? What about Vicky made her the right choice as your new vocalist?

DM: We found Vicky on YouTube. We needed someone that could not only sing and scream well, but who was also a creative person who could bring songwriting to the table. It was only after we heard what she could write for new The Agonist songs that we really knew she was the one for us.

Tell me about your new album, Eye of Providence. How might it be different or an evolution from your previous material?

DM: This album was a really cool collaboration of ideas. Firstly because we have a new singer and collaborator in Vicky! But also a natural progression. We were all teenagers when we wrote our first album and through more than ten years we have grown a lot. This album we really wanted to focus on the songs themselves. We really love incorporating all our varying influences into our music, but we wanted to do it in a more mature and cohesive way. This was actually the most prepared we’d ever been going into the studio. It was a team effort.

Tell me about your live show.

DM: We get the comment “You’re so much heavier live!” We have a very energetic live show and I think that’s what people are seeing. It’s no fun as an audience member to sit there and watch a band standing in place, playing nonchalantly. We’re there to put on a show!

The Agonist will perform Friday, May 8, at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Rd. Mushroomhead is also on the bill. Tickets are $20 in advance for patrons 18 and older. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit oddbodys.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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