Life of Agony – “A Place Where There’s No More Pain” (Napalm Records)
Without a doubt one of the more different bands in the early 90s, not in the least for their standout debut in “River Runs Red” in 1993, Life of Agony tastefully blended hardcore punk with metal along with a fair amount of alt rock in a melancholic, downtuned sound that didn’t just reflect their hard surroundings of Brooklyn, but openly (and unusually) shared emotions of deeply personal encounters with depression, alcoholism, abuse, grief and suicide. Produced by Type O Negative’s Josh Silver, this album would set the band on a path to sell over a million records worldwide, and tour with the biggest names in rock, including Metallica, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Foo Fighters, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. However, by 1997, vocalist Keith Caputo’s life choices and departure spelled the end for the band just 2 years later. With a short lived reunion in 2003, and the band members all individually involved in other musical projects, it wasn’t until 2014 that a second reunion took place, after Caputo’s gender reassignment to become Mina Caputo. “A Place Where There’s No More Pain” is the band’s first studio album in 12 years and right off, it’s a lighter release – sound wise but certainly not for the subject matter – well away from the harsh, grinding concrete aggression of “River Runs Red”. If it is a cathartic release, and I’m sure it is, then I’m certainly pleased for the band, at last free of their demons to write about them comfortably(?) in retrospect, rather than this being some of immersive therapy as in the past. Gone is the baritone Danzig-esque wailing of Keith, replaced by Mina’s soulful but melancholic tones that wouldn’t be out’ve place in Alice In Chains. Indeed, the mood of this album has more grunge and is more contemporary hard rock (even if Sal Abruscato still hits as hard as he used to!) from the heavy, trippy groove of opener ‘Meet My Maker’. Follow up ‘Right This Wrong’ see’s the twisting of Caputo’s distorted voice and Joey Z‘s snaking guitar with bassist Alan Robert bringing up a heavy back end. Thankfully, ‘Dead Speak Kindly’ takes me right back to “River Runs Red” with its heavy grunge melancholy and Caputo’s voice swirling around my head like a heavy trip before an illuminating rock chorus gives me some hope of returning back to normality! Equally is ‘Bag Of Bones’, with its dark melancholic guitar that wails emotionally to you as Caputo implores you not to ignore its poignant theme of alcoholism amid a sprinkling of weird melodies, unsurprising given this song is dedicated to the late Pete Steele, their Brooklyn brother in arms. With ‘Song For The Abused’ continuing the heavy emotive theme through a stark contrast between light, trippy pieces and heavy, downtuned metallic passages, making for the most powerful track on the album, the closer of ‘Little Spots Of You’ is anything but that being an ethereal piece of melancholic piano with Caputo’s ghostly voice bringing a dramatic end to this emotional rollacoaster of a album. Definitely written by a band who’ve experienced it rather than imagining it, this is the record that 24 years on in their maturity I would expect Life of Agony to have released.