posted on 2/2008 By:
Finland’s Agonizer is a certified world-record holder. I’m not making that up. The release party for this album holds the Guinness record for “Deepest Concert Underground,” some 1400 meters (roughly 1500 yards) below sea level in Europe’s deepest mineshaft. Just a little tidbit of trivia I ran across in my studies that I’m now passing along to you. Take it. It’s a gift. Use it to impress the ladies.
On the musical front, Agonizer plays a brand of accessible metal that many would consider corny. These tunes are powerful, slick, rife with big melodies and keyboards and harmony vocals and just a smidge of gothic tendencies edging into the proceedings. Birth / The End is a good listen, but definitely not one for you grimmer-than-thou types or for those that prize brutality above commerciality. Think Dragonforce with a bit of (recent) Amorphis and a dash of HIM, and you’ve got something not unlike Agonizer. “Epic” is the word that comes most readily to mind, and “poppy” is right behind it. This is big, like arena-sized. It’s not so much proggy as it is just bombastic. That’s the kind of epic I’m talking about. I picture 80s-rock videos of these guys on mountaintops in the snow and stuff, the wind blowing their long tresses and leather trenchcoats and me wondering why they bothered to lug that drum kit all the way up there. Also, when I say poppy, I mean this is really commercial, like about three steps removed from Europe, shredtastic and keyboard-drenched and, for lack of a less-pejorative word, cheeseball.
Vocalist Pasi Kärkkäinen doesn’t stray from a throaty midrange voice—his pipes are powerful, but his range isn’t enormous. (Or if it is, he doesn’t make use of it.) His restrained huskiness actually works in the band’s favor somewhat, lessening the slickness and giving this more balls than it would have with a higher-pitched, more traditional power-metal vocalist. The guitar work is fast—although I should mention that, when I compare this to Dragonforce, I do so because of the overall style. Agonizer guitarists Joni Laine and Jari-Pekka Perälä are good players, but they’re not in the same league as the Dragonforce guys. The keyboards are every-damn-where on this, so if you’re a “no keyboards in metal!” kind of dude, then you’ve been warned to stay away. I generally prefer a less-is-more-than-enough aesthetic when it comes to keys in metal, but I bend the rules a little for this type of stuff. For what it’s worth (which is nothing), although they’re omnipresent and dominant, the keys aren’t as annoying as they certainly could be. Plus, like I said, it’s goofy power metal, so what do you expect, really?
If you’re not immediately turned off by the slickness or the keys, songs like “Everyone Of Us” and “Black Sun” are catchy as hell and certainly worth a listen, which is about all it takes to get them stuck in your head. This type of metal isn’t really my bag, baby, and I’ll admit that when I signed up for a band called Agonizer, I expected something a little more… well… aggressive. But I ended up enjoying this, regardless. Ordinarily, I’d spend three paragraphs trying to explain how I generally avoid Dragonforce and especially HIM. Thankfully, unlike the former’s overwhelming wankery or the latter’s pouty-faced posturing, there’s nothing here that completely irks me. (If nothing else, unlike HIM, these dudes just kind of look like dudes and not vampire douchebags.) I’m probably not going to listen to this a whole hell of a lot, I won’t lie. Nonetheless, I can in good conscience recommend Birth / The End to anyone looking for melodic poppy power metal that’s not terribly aggressive, so that’s exactly what I’ll do:
If you’re looking for melodic poppy power metal that’s not terribly aggressive, I recommend this.
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