29 April, 2017

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

Beautiful; brilliant; dark; LOA is back!

I'm a music lover who thinks lyrics matter least. I'm first and foremost about the vocal melody, then the vocals, then the music, and last the lyrics. That is, except for two bands: TOOL and Life of Agony. And with no new TOOL anywhere on the immediate horizon, I'm tackling the brand spankin' new Life of Agony... a band that was #3 on my top 20 metal albums list (for A River Runs Red) oh so many years ago.

The new album is "A Place Where There's No More Pain" and time has come for me to listen and rank it.

So how do I rank albums? I listen to each song TEN TIMES before writing my reaction, then move to the next track. Then, after listening to the whole album and writing the review for each individual song, I go back and listen to the album as a whole to get a feel for how it all fits. I judge each song on a scale of 0 to 100. Then total up the song scores to determine an overall score.

So, here we go!

1. Meet My Maker: Kicks right off with groovy guitars and vocals that is a mix of Alice in Chains and... well, there's something Sepultura about it.  The vocal melody is catchy and the chorus works. As an introduction to this album, I'm happy! 85 out of 100

2. Right This Wrong: Another inspired-by Alice in Chains feel, with a killer groove and a short chorus. It's haunting and reminds me a bit of the cooler stuff James Hetfield was doing with vocals on Metallica's Load/Reload. Even the lead feels very much from that era. 83 out of 100

3. A Place Where There's No More Pain: It's got a hardcore pop feel (if that's a thing, if not, I think Life of Agony invented it). Catchy as hell. Under 3 minutes. A classic (post River Runs Red) Life of Agony song. I want to make hot dirty sexy rip-away-at-skin love with/to this song. 98 out of 100

4. Dead Speak Kindly: Haunting; creepy; grungy; with a sudden chorus that pulls you out of a happy drowning. It's the type of song you can have on all day and will take you from low to high like the best of Alice in Chains (yep, I've said it again). About halfway it changes up and the vocal melody turns even catchier and the guitars... happier? This song is not happy but it makes me happy. 92 out of 100

5. A New Low: Goes from a haunting vocal melody over a pounding bass to fast paced guitars, drums, and chorus before slowing down again. Of the first five songs, this one feels the most like their early 90s stuff. I can already hear a lot of old-school LOA fans saying this is the best on the album. 90 out of 100

6. World Gone Mad: Starts fast-heavy; shifts to an energizing chorus; back to more hardcore phrasing; then delivers a short little chorus-lead. Life of Agony knows how to make the most out of very little and gets in and out in just about 3 minutes. Nearly perfect. 95 out of 100

7. Bag of Bones: changes from slow to fast to mid-tempo throughout with very good vocal melodies. It's not my favorite & suffers slighty, grading wise, for sounding a lot like a song from Broken Valley. I won't mention which song so as not to inject that thought in your mind and ruin it for you! See? I'm cool like that. 85 out of 100

8. Walking Catastrophe: I love what they do with the vocals here. The way this song starts it could be a nice homage to 90s grunge but suddenly Caputo shifts the vocals to a near-80s rock anthem. "I didn't think it through, I wanted more for you... walking catastrophe." It's an infectious 3 minutes 30 seconds. 96 out of 100

9. Song for the Abused: Begins like something Depeche Mode could have written in the 80s. It doesn't stay there, though. Kicks in for a fast paced hardrock anthem before slowing down again... and slowly builds up again, then drives toward a passionate cry. "YOU BRING OUT! THE WORST IN ME!" No, LOA, you bring out the best in me. First time I listened I enjoyed it a lot. By the 10th time, I was out of my mind jumping around my room, broken ribs and all. I don't care. Bones heal. Music steals your soul! If you don't like this kind of song, oh well... then I consider myself lucky to have been randomly generated with these ears, not yours.  97 out of 100

10. Little Spots of You: The album ends on a piano. It's beautiful. Quiet. Sad. Crushing. When I went back and listened to the whole album in one shot, this song hit even harder. What a way to go. "Little spots of you, dripping down the tub..." 95 out of 100

TOTAL SCORE: 91.6 out of 100

"A Place Where There's No More Pain" is full of everything I shamelessly adore about Life of Agony: Caputo's beautifully pained vocals; gorgeous melodies; grungy to groovy to hardcore riffings; melodic and heavy songs; and lyrics about the suffering of the abused. It's all there, except the band somehow feels more energized now, in their mid 40s, than they did in their 20s and 30s, if that's possible considering they've always given everything to every performance (you need to see them live to appreciate Caputo's twisting and writhing on stage as if every ounce of her is in the music).

Is this album a classic? No clue. Talk to me in 10 years... but I dig EVERY SINGLE TRACK. I haven't been this happy with a release by a band from my younger alcohol-hazy days since Anthrax's Worship Music... and that ended up as my #1 of 2011. This is at least likely going to be near the top of the 2017 list.

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