As a Life of Agony fan in the 90s, songs from the 1993 debut River Runs Red and 1995 follow-up Ugly have stayed with me and often pop up in my head at unexpected moments (“If I knew what to do, I’d do it…”). I didn’t follow the band after those two albums but when I caught wind of a new single released earlier this year, I was particularly interested to find out what the band had been up to. As a bonus, I got the chance in a conversation with Joey Z recently.
Learning that Keith Caputo was now Mina Caputo, after her transgender coming out in 2011, it takes nothing at all away from the music, and if anything made me all the more interested to find out more.
Getting my hands on the full album was sheer delight. It’s sonically deep, grungy and melodic with an immersive blend of darkness and despair alongside lyrics which tug at your heartstrings. It’s not one for playing in the background. You need your headphones on or a decent hi-fi turned up loud and the neighbours out for the day.
Opening track “Meet My Maker” kicks off with heavy attack and drops us straight into the heart of the band’s message. A riff that would not be out of place on a Soundgarden album, I’m surprised at the grungy aura here, but certainly not displeased. Joey Z graces us with a snarling solo and we’re soon fired out of the cannon again, ablaze. What an opener!
When I first heard lead single “A Place Where There’s No More Pain” I was pleasantly surprised. Despite a change of vocal style, Life of Agony seem to have picked up in sound and style where the album Ugly left off. The song is heavy and melodic and has a tension about it that draws you in. It feels like a summary of what Mina has been through over the years on the journey of discovery about her true self. It’s not only this song that highlights that sentiment, but the whole album is achingly emotional and anyone with any personal struggles will identify with it, old and new fans alike.
Despite the overall grungy sound, I wasn’t expecting such a grand salute to Alice in Chains with fourth track “Dead Speak Kindly”. Whilst the early 90s, for me, was full of grunge and filled my bedroom from wall to wall, I hadn’t connected Life of Agony to that sound. I had bunched them together with my love of Metallica, The Almighty, Tool and such. While the album perfectly bridges the gap between those two sub-genres, it really kicks grunge’s butt and drags it heroically into the 2010s (or whatever we’re supposed to call this decade!).
Next track to hit you right between the eyes is second single “World Gone Mad”. Here the pace quickens and those powering guitars rage on with a soaring chorus and vocals that leave you almost breathless when singing along. It’s one I can’t wait to see live and is without doubt going to be a pit-inducer.
A funny thing happens when I listen to “Walking Catastrophe”. It’s a dark and heavy track with lashings of crunchy guitar, and then when the chorus starts I find myself looking around the room at the nearest device to see where the Skype call sound is coming from. Every time I hear the chorus on that track I have to remember it’s the sound effects in the song and not me potentially missing a Skype call. That aside, it’s another superb song.
The album plays out with the very dark and atmospheric piano-led “Little Spots of You”. More like an outro than a full song, it leaves you a little haunted but at the very least ready to rip into that riotous opening riff and start the album over… and over… and over.