The Agonist

Lullabies for the Dormant Mind

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On the Agonist's first album, 2007's Once Only Imagined, most of the truly memorable musical fireworks were ignited by vocalist Alissa White-Glutz and her uniquely accomplished beauty-and-the-beast duality; all that her bandmates were capable of doing in response was echoing those moodswings with generic melodic metalcore. So the pressure to improve and diversify was obviously on the boys when time came for the Agonist to record their second album, Lullabies for the Dormant Mind, which, before you even ask, does find White-Glutz firing on all cylinders, once again. The good news is that, this time, so are guitarist Danny Marino, bassist Chris Kells, and drummer Simon McKay, who must have taken a crash course in "Advanced Metallic Subgenres" or something, because they are finally able to break out of those melodic metalcore shackles and put their substantial instrumental talents to good use behind their formidable frontwoman. As a result, highlights amidst standouts such as "The Tempest," "Thank You Pain," "Waiting Out the Winter," and "The Sentient" manage to frame White-Glutz's alternating bouts of sweetness and savagery with backdrops built from some of the most extreme heavy metal styles in existence: death metal, black metal, even grindcore! Simultaneously, the Agonist repeatedly interjects keyboards, both synthetic and straight-up piano, into most all of these songs, thus bringing the sophistication of classically inspired songwriting even unto the most chaotic of thrash-outs. The sheer schizophrenia of it all may prove a little disorienting, at first, but by the time we roll past the halfway mark, even the raga-flavored midsection of "Chlorpromazine" and the seemingly preposterous "Swan Lake" passage sung a cappella by White-Glutz seem to work in the context of the album's fearsomely eclectic creative wingspan. Not bad for a band that seemed to be hopelessly mired in a deteriorating subgenre just two years earlier; Lullabies for the Dormant Mind sees the Agonist rising to the challenge of topping themselves.

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