Interview: The Agonist's Danny Marino

Danny Marino is the guitarist for the Canadian Melodic Death Metal band The Agonist.

The Agonist, who are set to release their fourth album, Eyes of Providence, in the next couple of weeks, have been turning heads with their combination of tasty Gothenburg-style riffing and soaring melodic choruses, calling to mind both the commercial potential of tried-and-true aggression of Century-Media-heydey acts like Arch Enemy, In Flames, and Dark Tranquillity.

Marino spoke to Empty Lighthouse about Eyes of Providence's dystopian themes, all the "hot chick in metal" type of press they received on the count of their previous vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz (who left the band to front Arch Enemy), and discovering their new singer, the previously-unknown Vicky Psarakis.

Read the full exchange below.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the technological and dystopian themes on Eyes of Providence?

The concept for Eye of Providence came about after reading the Edward Snowden-released NSA documents. I had always had an interest in new technology, especially anything related to Artificial Intelligence. Another inspiration came from Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity that speaks of what future lies ahead for a society of humans that will eventually interface with technology directly. The Eye of Providence is an ancient concept for the all-seeing eye that has always been seen as a sort of mystical or God figure that can see everyone at all times.

I found it interesting that we are living this in reality today without the need of explaining it by some magical force. The internet, smartphones, Google, Facebook and AI are all advancing rapidly.

Soon every moment of everyone who connects will be able to be tracked.

The cover however presents the eye of the victim taking it in rather than the all-seeing eye.

This is also key to the concept because people are willingly submitting to this way of life to have access to these very useful tools.

?Q: According to the "The Music Will Prevail" documentary from Century Media, vocalist Vicky Psarakis was chosen without so much as an audition.

How did this come about? Did you know her previously? Was she recommended? Or did you discover her online??

We first discovered Vicky through her YouTube channel, where she had posted a lot of original and cover songs. We were very impressed with her versatility, but it was really once we'd heard her work with some of our new material that we knew she was the perfect fit for The Agonist.

We knew going in that we didn't just want a great singer, we wanted a great musician. Vicky has a very musical mind, which made her great to collaborate with.

?Q: Speaking of, in a Q&A on YouTube, Psarakis lists some interesting influences, specifically Pain of Salvation. How have her contributions changed The Agonist? Or was most of Eyes of Providence written before she joined?

Several songs were written in terms of music, but no vocals had been written. In the past the music and vocal writing had been very separate. I would write the majority of the music, and Alissa would put vocals over top. On Eye of Providence we really changed things up! It was much more of a collaboration.

I still wrote the majority of the riffs, but we would jam things out together. Vicky actually lived with me as my roommate while we wrote and recorded Eye of Providence! So we really had the opportunity to write together.

Vicky still wrote the majority of the vocals, but myself and Simon also wrote some as well.

We all have very varied influences in the band, which really helps in a band like ours. The Agonist has always loved to delve into different moods and genres.

??Q: The themes in the video for "Gates of Horn and Ivory" are pretty self-explanatory, but any chance you would like to elaborate on them?

The lyrics for "Gates of Horn and Ivory" were based on the ancient Greek text The Odyssey. In dreams, gates of horn represent truth. Whatever you see beyond them can be trusted in reality.

Whereas gates of ivory, which are more aesthetically beautiful, represent deception and is not to be trusted in real life.

For the video, I decided to take this concept and apply it to the music industry. It was also a great opportunity to laugh at ourselves!

??Q: According to a studio update posted on YouTube, the solo for "Disconnect Me" was written while guitarist Pascal Jobin was in a cast. Any other crazy studio stories?

That was probably the craziest! We were actually very prepared in the studio for this album, so things went relatively smoothly. In our Studio Update #2 we mention Simon having a go at vocals while Chris Donaldson (our producer) had stepped out.

You only see a clip in that update video but we still have the entire song recorded with Simon's spontaneous "vocals". I've listened to the track about 10 times and I still crack up every time I hear it!??

Q: If I go onto The Agonist's Wikipedia page, I'm reminded twice that The Agonist has been named in Revolver's "Hottest Chicks in Metal" list.

Is this type of coverage annoying? Or is all press good press? I imagine it must be tiring to be constantly fielding questions about this type of thing.

It's a double-edged sword.It does bring attention to the band, which can be a good thing. And in the end, there is no reason a woman can't be both talented and attractive. On the other hand, of course, is the prejudice.

Some people can make the assumption without listening to the band that they only get attention for the fact that they are "female-fronted". Honestly, I find the labels pointless and hope people will just judge us based on our music.


??Q: The Agonist has toured with amazingly diverse bands: everyone from Corrosion of Conformity to Kamelot to Otep.

What's the ideal audience for The Agonist? Would you rather be playing to audiences who are already familiar with extreme metal, or be turing people onto it??

Both scenarios can be great. From a personal standpoint it's always most fun to be playing to a room full of your fans! But when we tour with different bands, where the audience might not know us yet, it is really rewarding to turn people onto our music.

When you meet fans at the merch table, who pick up your CD after your set, it's cool because you know you truly made an impact.

?Q: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions! Feel free to add anything!??

Thanks so much!Check out our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheAgonistOfficial) for Tour Dates and hope to see you out there on the road!?

The Agonist 2015 US Tour Dates:

4/7 - Mojoes - Joliet, Ill.
4/12 - Empire Control Room & Garage - Austin, Texas
4/14 - Fubar - St.

Louis, Mo.
4/15 - Emerson Theater - Indianapolis, Ind.
4/16 - The Token Lounge - Westland, Mich.
4/17 - Trickshots - Clifton Park, N.Y.
4/17 - The Palladium - Worchester, Mass. (New England Metal and Hardcore Festival)

Check out The Agonist on Facebook

**An earlier version of this article had incorrect tour information**