The Agonist @ The Garage, London

22nd October 2013

Review & Photography by Graham Hilling

The tube is ultra-crowded with Arsenal fans on their way to Highbury this evening, and when I’m eventually spat out from the station I’m greeted by squally rain….the Garage however is the complete opposite, dry but very few people here at the 7pm start time and I enter the venue to see that the first band, GrandExit, is already well into their set.

A small but appreciative crowd at the barrier are banging their heads and despite the lack of atmosphere, they are playing their hearts out.
Agonist index_clip_image002_0029
Hailing from Sweden, GrandExit play melodic death metal and fit into this evening’s bill quite nicely.

Agonist index_clip_image006_0008
The vocals of Daniel Wahlström in particular drive the sound along a pace and acts as a fine focal point. It is definitely a shame that there is only a handful of people watching…..

A short set to accommodate the 5 band lineup this evening (now that’s value for money!) sees them leaving the stage when the venue is still empty.

Next up are Dawn Heist from Australia.

Agonist index_clip_image010_0008
These guys are, once again, melodic metal but playing with a backtrack of various electronic fills and soundscapes their sound is quite distinct.
Agonist index_clip_image012_0008
Live, however, it seems like a lot of the subtlety is lost leaving the band sounding less interesting than you might have hoped from the recorded material and the songs sounding a little predictable.

Undaunted, they’re clearly happy to be playing in London though and put on a spirited but short show.

Agonist index_clip_image016_0007
Another quickfire change on the stage sees last minute replacements Mors Principium Est up next.

Agonist index_clip_image018_0005
They are replacing Arsis who had to pull out for personal reasons. Mors Principium Est (derived from the Latin, “death is the beginning”) are from Finland and definitely raise the bar in terms of music this evening.

Agonist index_clip_image020_0004
They play a ferocious set of death metal with very few compromises.

Agonist index_clip_image022_0005
“Altered State of Consciousness” raises the tempo considerably and the blasting double kicks leave very little room in the sound, impressive and claustraphobic at the same time.

Agonist index_clip_image024_0005
Ville Viljanen growls convincingly and closer “Birth of the Starchild” cements Mors Principium Est’ rightful place on the tour and has no doubt convinced a few of the punters too.

Next up are Threat Signal from Hamilton in Canada.

Agonist index_clip_image026_0003
The venue is now about half full so at least there is a little more atmosphere, raising the bar further and without doubt, the best band of the evening so far.

Agonist index_clip_image028_0002
Threat Signal combines blistering metal with intelligent lyrics and played squeaky tight (as are all the bands this evening) following a period of extensive touring they sound pretty good to my ears.

Agonist index_clip_image030_0001
As singer Jon Howard (cheesily) urges the crowd to “keep this party going….” he is indeed rewarded by a fair bit of movement on the floor and even a small pit at times.

Sounding very occasionally like a (very) heavy Linkin Park (“Fallen Disciples”, vocal lines very similar but I’m sure they won’t thank me for that!) but mostly just good solid metal, this was an very enjoyable show.

Agonist index_clip_image032_0000
“Comatose” takes us into familiar territory with some great driving drumming, they’re even joined on stage by Patrick Browne from Dawn Heist to help with vocal duties. Closer “Rational Eyes” from their first album “Under Reprisal” sounds like Fear factory and stamps an indelible mark on the evening, top marks.

Threat Signal Setlist:
Inane Outro
Through My Eyes
As I Destruct
Fallen Disciples
A New Beginning
The Beginning Of The End
Rational Eyes

So it is left to The Agonist to close up the proceedings.

Another Canadian band and playing very technical metal with growls and clean singing from a female vocalist, this is not a run of the mill metal band by any means.

Agonist index_clip_image036_0000
With a reputation of speaking up for causes such as animal rights and writing songs that confront subjects like the state of the world head on. The music is similarly uncompromising in nature, with vocalist Alissa White-Gluz effortlessly switching from growls (which, incidentally, are 100% full on!) to clean vocals.

Agonist index_clip_image038
The scene is set by opener “You’re Coming With Me”, the opening track from their latest album, Prisoners. Steaming along, barely leaving any room for breath, it signals the bands intention to seriously kick ass tonight. And they’re definitely on form, the whole set is played pretty much note perfect (to be expected I guess, this bash is right at the end of an extensive tour) but no mean feat, this is complex stuff in places.

Agonist index_clip_image040
“Thank you, Pain” takes us back to the first album and is probably the best known song from the band. It is met with warmth from the audience, bit like seeing an old friend who you’ve not had any contact with for a while! Lots of singing along and audience participation!

Agonist index_clip_image042
“Ideomotor” rocks along and a perfectly executed “Predator and Prayer” defies you to not bang your head with its’ more mainstream and accessible sound. It’s a bit ironic then the evening ends up being a little bit of a disappointment in some respects.

Agonist index_clip_image044
Alissa White-Gluz almost begs the crowd to make some noise half way through the set in order to inject some energy from the audience. Sadly they are mainly watching, maybe in awe of the playing or ferocity of the songs but there’s precious little feedback going on, most seem rooted to the floor (quite the opposite from when Threat Signal played).
Agonist index_clip_image046
A band like The Agonist desperately need to feed off of the energy of the audience, this sets up a feedback loop and is what gives rise to the best live performances, where audience and band crank each other up. Tonight, it just didn’t happen.

So, an enjoyable evening but you’ve got to think it could have been so much more if there had been a larger audience and a better atmosphere.

The Agonist Setlist:
You’re Coming With Me
Thank You, Pain
Born Dead; Buried Alive
…and Their Eulogies Sang Me to Sleep
The Tempest (The Siren’s Song; The Banshee’s Cry)
Predator and Prayer
Rise and Fall
Martyr Art
The Escape
Business Suits and Combat Boots