OK, so the first album that I did in my “classic albums” section was Type O Negative, which of course, was one of my favorite bands at the time. But they also turned me onto Roadrunner Records, which for those of you too young to remember, was kind of one of the few places even putting out metal in the US during the 1990s. Sure, in retrospect, a lot of that stuff wasn’t that great. But there were a few bands on that label that put out some good records. Sepultura had Chaos AD which I loved, and one band that stands out for me to this day, and that I really loved as an angsty teenager, was Life of Agony.
Life of Agony was one of those precursors to nu-metal that should have implied the trend was on the move, but still were a lot heavier and better musicians than any of the bands that followed them. While they weren’t exactly the worlds best musicians, they were able to make a really groovy album that spoke to everything that pissed me off as a kid. Singing along to choruses like “You got time but you ain’t got time for me! Got time but you ain’t got time for me!” and empathizing with the main character in the whole story whose life just sucks.
The whole band was perfect for the moment, and really Life of Agony never put out a good record after River Runs Red. But this album is a classic, in my book. Sure, your average death metal guy probably wouldn’t be big into it, but if you like doom metal at all. Or groovy metal with clean vocals, this record is fantastic. The vocals are deep and powerful, the lyrics are dark and anguished and the groove is so thick you could cut it with a knife. In many ways, these guys had a similar sound to Type O, but they took themselves a lot more seriously and weren’t funny or tongue in cheek at all. On the contrary, they were serious dudes producing a serious album that seriously kicked ass.
Listening to the album again, the only thing on here that I don’t really like now are the story pieces with the bitchy lady screaming and the fighting. The dude killing himself at the end is a little bit more painful to listen to now then it was then. But, the music stands the test of time in my opinion. Its down-tuned hooks still grab me, and the lack of solos doesn’t bother me, and I still love the vocals and lyrics. Incidentally, I also have always been a huge fan of concept albums, and this one was no different. Apparently something about a story in the music just grabs me and pulls me in.
Of course, one man’s nostalgia is another man’s pain (See: Queensryche). There’s no guarantee that anyone who didn’t grow up on that record would really dig it. But if you want to get an idea of what metal was like in the US before nu-metal hit, before bands like At The Gates broke the ocean barrier and blew young death metal fans away and before a lot of the labels that are huge today started really setting down their roots (Century Media, for example), then take a listen to Life of Agony. Let the groove and teen angst wash over you.