A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with friend and former Angry Metal Guy colleague Jordan Campbell about how influential bands of the 90s have changed significantly, and usually for the worse. While we disagreed on some aspects, we both agreed that Life of Agony had the strangest career arc out of all of them. Like many bands in that time period, the Brooklyn hardcore act burst onto the scene with 1993’s River Runs Red, an album that not only got me through some rough patches as a teenager, but also one that holds up reasonably well to this day. I won’t bore you with the details, but many abrupt changes in sound, vocalist Keith Caputo’s departure in 1998 after 1997’s psychedelic Soul Searching Sun, and not one but two disbandings soured me on a band that I once held in high esteem. But times, tastes, and people change. In hindsight, 2005’s uncomfortable comeback album Broken Valley was also uncomfortable for Caputo, who openly came out as transgender shortly after the album’s release and now goes as Mina Caputo. Fast forward a full twelve years later, the River Runs Red line-up has reunited for a second time with their fifth album, A Place Where There’s No More Pain.

And this was the follow-up I wanted after River Runs Red. Opener “Meet My Maker” shows glimpses of RRR‘s heft and groove, with guitarist Joey Z. and bassist Alan Robert in perfect lockstep with Sal Abruscato’s hardcore drumming patterns. The biggest change lies in Mina’s performance, and not for the obvious reasons. While she sounds amazing on her solo work, she was hit-or-miss in the past with LoA, oftentimes sounding like she was unfocused or dialing it in at points. That’s definitely not the case here, as she sounds absolutely confident, delivering some of her best work in the context of LoA since their explosive debut. There’s enough groove on here to get people moving and longtime fans smiling, and that’s a huge feather in their ballcap. Already, it just feels right.

That feeling continues throughout, as the aggression and hooks keep on coming. The title track and “World Gone Mad” both make welcome additions to their live set, with the former containing an infectious chorus and the latter being one of Life of Agony‘s speediest numbers. But just because they’re looking to the past on No More Pain, doesn’t mean they’re not taking risks with their songwriting. Closer “Little Spots of You” sounds like it was penned from Mina to her younger self, being only a piano and her singing. The way the song (and album) ends abruptly, hinting at a successful suicide attempt, sends a shiver through me more convincingly than “Friday” did on RRR.


Produced by Matt Brown, No More Pain sounds like a conventional hard rock record. The drums sound great, the bass is full, and the guitars cut just right without overpowering everything. Mina’s voice is also mixed well, retaining the spotlight but not sitting on top of the music. My biggest issue is with the track listing. No More Pain is frontloaded with their heavier, speedier numbers. By proxy, the second half, while still good music, feels a bit tired and lethargic as we head towards the finish line. Again, there are no bad songs, but a shuffling of the track list could do the album wonders. Also, don’t go into this expecting River Runs Red – The Revenge, as there’s little in the way of hardcore on this. And frankly, I don’t think LoA were aiming for that, regardless.

But there is one thing I do have to mention, and that’s Mina Caputo’s performance. As I stated above, Mina has never sounded this confident, this comfortable in her own skin, and it reflects positively in her performance. Don’t confuse that comfort with complacency, however (check out her impressive vocal range during “Walking Catastrophe” for proof). Her transition did her a world of good, and I want to applaud her for her bravery and performance. It takes some major guts to come out, especially in one of hardcore’s most influential bands, and she did it with ease and ferocity.

There’s no question that No More Pain is a solid slab of hard rock. In fact, it makes a nice gap between RRR and Ugly. It also gave me an appreciation for their earlier work, as I’ve gone back and unearthed some gems that I otherwise didn’t have the time of day for previously. Going forward, I hope Life of Agony continue following their own muse and not giving a single fuck what anyone has to say. That’s the Life of Agony we all know and love, and I’m happy to see that version make a triumphant return.

 


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: lifeofagony.com | facebook.com/lifeofagonyfamiglia
Releases Worldwide: April 28th, 2017

Share →
  • AndySynn

    I’m actually part-way through listening to this (again) right now. So pleased with it.

    Though… do you also get a bit of an AIC vibe from it in places?

    (Also, I’ll go to bat for “Ugly” any day of the week)

    • Grymm

      I have a better appreciation of Ugly *now* than I did then. Same with Soul Searching Sun.

      Anf there is a bit of an Alice in Chains vibe in there as well. All in all, a solid album, and easily their best since RRR.

    • junkyhead

      Yeah there’s quite a bit of AIC, which is awesome.

    • Thais Munk

      I’m glad that I’m not the only one who heard a bit of AiC in this :D

      Totally going off on a tangent here, but do anybody know of other bands sounding a bit like Alice in Chains? Since I’ve listened to close to everything Alice in Chains put out and could use some more of that.

      • AndySynn

        Hmmm… the latest Sahg album had a bit of an AIC-vibe to it… so did the most recent Secrets of the Moon.

        I’ll have a further ponder for you.

      • Grymm

        Shores of Null have an AiC vibe to them.

      • Garian_

        I thought Sal’s project A Pale Horse Named Death had a AiC sound to it. Not nearly as good of course.

    • Captain Intenso

      On more than one track, but that opening track just sounds like something straight off Dirt. Not sure if that’s a good thing, I’m one of those saddos who just can’t accept they moved on sonically from RRR. But its because that album is just so damn awesome, even 20yrs later.

      Still this is best album since then no doubt, really enjoying it!

  • PotaD0s

    What is this? Rock and Roll? Well I never!

  • savafreak
  • Sean Sky

    RRR is a killer album. I don’t think I’ve heard their other stuff but I’m curious to check out the new one.

  • RRR is one of my-all time favorite records and one that I got to see performed live on the last date of their RRR anniversary tour (an incredible performance since they are a fairly local band). I even have the RSD vinyl (I think it’s just a reissue though but still..).

    With all that said, I went to the LoA website where they have a bunch of YouTube videos of a few of their new songs and listened to all of them. I then by accident played “Through and through” and thought, “Yeah, that’s the LoA I remember.” Sigh.

  • Joe1909

    Not in to transsexuals or this kind of music this band was alright in 90’s now they suck

    • Dagoth_RAC

      I expect better from the AMG comments section. :-(

      • Sean Sky

        Comment deleted, what did I miss?

        • Grymm

          Someone being an absolute asshat.

          • Sean Sky

            Sounds like a twat

      • Joe1909

        What’s your problem?

    • Grymm

      *points in a distant direction*

      Metalsucks is THAT way.

      • zerospacer

        I, for one, can’t think of anything, aside from the music of the record itself, more metal than a biological man medically transforming their body into a woman’s body.

        • Maybe transforming your body into RoboCop? Metal in every sense of the word.

          • zerospacer

            That is a good point.
            Question: Is it more Metal for a biological man to transform into a woman, or a biological woman to transform into a man?

      • Joe1909

        Go to there then no one is stopping you

        • Grymm

          I assure you that I’m not going anywhere, thank you kindly.

          • Joe1909

            Ok I don’t care what you do

    • Disappointing.

      • Joe1909

        What’s the problem?

    • METAL OTTER

      I kept clicking on the downvote button but the number doesn’t go below zero, please help

      • You wot m8?

        Same. Seems to be a glitch in the Matrix.

    • herrschobel

      *singing* ..ye ole stinking mule ….down down down ye shall fare

      and sorry to all mules out there

      • Joe1909

        No clue that that means but I’m sure it’s derogatory

        • herrschobel

          nooooo…it´s an old folk song from Upper Austria dealing with the trials and tribulations of Mules and other Artiodactyls …

          • Joe1909

            Alright

  • Gloomer88

    Love this band, loved RRR but please people give Soul Searching Sun a go!, very good album, just takes a few spins.Looking forward to this also

  • This is far better than I expected. Not that I expected anything as I didn’t even know it was coming out. Ugly is actually my favourite album of there’s though I also have River Runs Red. They lost me at Soul Searching Sun. Great chorus on the embedded track. One of the more memorable ones I’ve heard this year.

  • Wilhelm

    They fell off my radar for years; I had no idea Caputo came out as a Transgender, so I was surprised to say the least. It’s kind of cool that he was brave enough to make this transition and the fans to accept him as Mina. The song is pretty good btw.

  • Tofu muncher

    the vocals on the embedded song doesn’t do it for me, hers sounding strained and such, though the music is tight. Still, I’ll be interested in listening to the album once available, notably that Walking Catastrophe as dear ol’ Grymm recommends it. Nice review.

  • Johan

    I remember Headbanger’s ball playing Weeds back in the day I thought the chorus was catchy but never in a million years would I have labeled the band as hardcore. Does that mean that RRR will shock and awe me if I listen to it now?

    Sal Abruscato, didnt’ he play for Type O in the beginning? Brooklyn boys stay together I guess.

    • Grymm

      The one and only!

  • herrschobel

    i almost fell from my chair when i saw this review. i was not aware there is a Life of Agony album coming … that said, i am happy it seems to be very good ! it´s also good to hear Miss Caputo in good shape ..no more pain ..bravo !

  • lennymccall

    Ugly is the only album I like of theirs and it’s one of my favorite records. I gave this single a shot right when it came out and just despised it.
    I would like to give the rest of the record a listen but I don’t have high hopes. The vocals are killing it for me.
    Oh well back to Ugly if need be.

  • I have no previous experience with this band but it sounds good. Nothing earth-shattering but energetic and hooky. The vocals seem strong and suit the music. What’s all the hubbub?

  • zerospacer

    It’s nice to have a site that has some focus while treading a grey area of experimental-not-quite-metal and of-interest-to-metal-fans. But including just any heavy rock band just kinda makes it less fun.

  • Shrümpelstiltskin

    I have listened to snippets of Life of Agony a few times, and I wasn’t really into them. However, I was curious and I checked out the new album today, and dang is it good. I’m gonna go back and listen through their other stuff now. Really impressed.

  • Kris Mouton

    That’s a SPOT-ON review guys! I felt exactly the same! The vocals are better than ever and reminded me of the RRR with a more grown up sound. There are some awesome groovy and catchy tracks, with “Dead Speaks Kindly” being my favourite (with indeed some Aic sound)

  • Jack Tors

    Should get a solid 4.0/5