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Life of Agony - A Place Where There's No More Pain

Label: Napalm Records
Format: mp3 download
Released: 2017
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 8.5/10

Life of Agony have always been like the group from around the neighborhood who blows away the competition at the Battle of the Bands. Their 1993 debut, "River Runs Red," turned out to be a minor New York Metal classic, gaining scene attention as a straight-up hard Metal album, even in the heyday of Grunge. Fast forward to 2017 for the release of "A Place Where There's No More Pain," their first studio album since 2005, and their strongest since "River Runs Red" - - maybe even their best.


A lot has changed for LOA over the years, but a few things have remained the same. The biggest change is that founding vocalist Keith Caputo, whose deep-throated holler had been such a defining trait of their 90s sound (before their brief period without him), is now Mina Caputo. This is their first with Caputo since her gender switch; her current vocal approach is almost unrecognizable from the early days, singing now in a more nasal, gentler tone, entirely absent of the bellow of her prior life. Another new aspect is the streamlined songwriting. Where in the past, they'd occasionally foray into unexpected time changes and would sometimes allow songs to meander, the tracks on "A Place Where There's No More Pain" are lean, tight, streamlined packages. Most importantly, they groove hard, keeping it simple, bringing the blister, and making a statement, with mid to fast hard rock tempos. This is closer to "Weeds" than it is to "Bad Seed." No one's going to be teaching this stuff in music theory classes, but that's OK. At different places, I hear influences of Alice in Chains, Type O Negative's non-Doom stuff, Biohazard, Helmet, as well as callbacks to early LOA. The lyrical themes are still in the same room of sadness, depression, hopelessness - - but this isn't "The Band of Joy;" they're called "Life of Agony." I hope this doesn't become a novelty. Caputo's gender reassignment gives them the unique opportunity to change lead vocalists without actually changing vocalists. Mina's got what it takes to front a strong Metal band; she always did, even she she was a he. With this material, plus the best of their old catalogue, "A Place Where There's No Pain" gives Life of Agony tenure and legacy. Recommended. There are some filler tracks, sure, but lots of excellence. Start with any of the first 3, especially the title track - - or "World Gone Mad," "Bag of Bones," or the heavy emotion piano ballad, "Little Spots of You," that closes out the record.


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