The gang is back together – and have they sounded better?
“It’s been months and it’s been years, and I just wanna disappear and I’ve found my place where there’s no more pain, invisible. Invisible.”
So sings Mina Caputo on the title track of Life Of Agony’s first album for 12 years. Crucially its over 20 since the bands classic “River Runs Red” album line up recorded together, as they do here.
And in that line, Caputo sums up everything that has happened since. Her gender realignment surgery – completed in 2011 – has finally, perhaps, given her that place to be happy and certainly there is a cathartic nature to the lyrics that suggests the music has helped in that regard too. That was always the case with Life Of Agony, of course, but it seems ever sharper in focus throughout here.
A more mature, hard rock sound, maybe than the crossover stuff of the early 1990s, but in that respect, it can be seen as merely a natural progression for a band that is after all 25 years or so on.
“A Place Where There’s No More Pain” begins in superb fashion. “Meet My Maker” has the same chunky guitar riffs that LOA always did, but it boasts a chorus that is designed for arena rock. “What I believe will never waver,” offers Caputo. “Cos I’ve made my amends.”
This is a bold collection, proud of how strident it is. Other records can do understated. Not this. “Right This Wrong” with its slightly discordant harmonies and wonderful guitar work from Joey Z is another that does not do demure.
The way Caputo delivers her vocals has changed over the years and on “Dead Speak Kindly” there is a real Alice In Chains feel, and the quiet/loud dynamic of “A New Low” also harkens back to the days of grunge – but this is no nostalgia fest. This is Life Of Agony reasserting their relevance in a quite marvellous fashion.
Nothing here is too long. It is as if the band were keen to trim off any extraneous fat. “World Gone Mad” (“yesterday is filled with pain/ wash away the storm that came”) is a brilliant highlight, incessant, driving, thumping rock it is the perfect example of what we’ve missed over the years.
One of the more lengthy cuts here, “Bag Of Bones” is also one of the darkest, but with the rhythm section of Alan Robert and Sal Abruscato to the fore, it takes the record to another place entirely, “Walking Catastrophe”, one of the slowest affairs sees Caputo “fooling the ones that look up to you” while “Song For The Abused” is an empowering song of real hope as its key line “this ain’t the life I’ve got to choose” is a beacon to anyone who wants it.
The record ends, actually, with what is its biggest departure. The stripped down and unsettling “Little Spots Of You” – largely just Caputo and a piano, is something that you wouldn’t associate with LOA, but it works perfectly. Like everything else here.
Never go back, they say. But why not if the magic is there. And moreover if the magic is there still and there is unfinished business, then going back is the only option.
“A Place Where There’s No More Pain” is more than unfinished business. It is a record that Life Of Agony almost had to make. And it is quite brilliant.