14 May 2017

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

Life of Agony can never be accused of taking the easy route, that is something that can be said for them.  It could be the fact that they have split up twice and got back together, members have found their true identity (so happy for Mina on that one, such a courageous individual), making some of the most ground-breaking hardcore and then changing tracks to make their own path, but without sacrificing their own roots.  I got to see them at the Damnation Festival in Leeds a while ago, it was a great show and rekindled my love for their music (which never went away, it was just put to the side when my Zappa obsession began).  So, when they got back together in 2014, it was a waiting game to see if they were going to release a new music to be released from this reunion and in 2016 they confirmed there was.  In 2017, we have the release in our hands in the form of 'A Place Where There's No More Pain', the cover of bands in bondage and bleeding is a stark image, but it is all down to the music now.  Time to see how they sound in 2017......

01 - Meet My Maker

....And they are sounding mighty on 'Meet My Maker'!  It is a powerful hardcore number, one which speaks of having acceptance that the end is near.  The past is feeding the present and blinding us to the future, it is such a great opening as it shows that the band have not lost their power, Mina is in fine form and it is just a powerful start to this album.

02 - Right This Wrong

To borrow slightly from the title of a Devin Townsend album, ‘Right This Wrong’ is a heavy as a heavy thing can get before it starts to delve into the murky waters of death/black metal.  It is a stomping riff, some great bridges, beautiful vocals and a promise to make amends.  That is sometimes all you want from a song, you just want the right amount of energy, commitment and noise – job done on this track.

03 - A Place Where There's No More Pain

Sometimes you have to face up to your problems, sometimes the challenges cannot be avoided and this song takes about finding sanctuary when things get too hard and solace is required.  This is a huge number, the riff is an instant classic, the vocals & lyrics are to the high quality that we have come to expect from Life of Agony/Mina and the bass/drums are straight out of the top draw as well.  Only problem – it ends too soon, but better to be left wanting more.

04 - Dead Speak Kindly

The grind is out in force on this number, my old colleague Mr Jermyn will be loving this riff as it could be used to level buildings.  It is a slow and harsh number that gives you a slight chance to retrieve your breath that will have been knocked out of you with the first three tracks.  You can hear an Alternative Rock influence (it has some Alice in Chains tones to the guitar) on this one, it is not as “smash, grab, in your face” as other Life of Agony tracks and could have been mistaken for something from their ‘Soul Searching Sun’ period, which is a good thing to be honest.  It is good that the band can still create a number such as this, with a quality sound that sounds as subtle as a lovers caress and as heavy as a brick through a window.

05 - A New Low

The theme of depression is brought out on ‘A New Low’, when you think you have reached a new level of despair and everything far too much for you.  It is another slower number, the chorus section has an explosive quality, as if the tension is being released with every note, beat and word that is performed.  Another quality track that does not rock the boat too much, but is not predictable or by the numbers.

06 - World Gone Mad

The anger is reaching brimming point on ‘World Gone Mad’, everything has gone to shit and the walls are closing in as everything disintegrates around you.  This is the first song on the album which feels a little bit predictable to be honest, it has a familiar pattern and it does not have the same quality as other tracks on the album.  However, it is still a good song and the band are as tight as ever –  sometimes you just want something that will hit the right spots and I can see this one being that song for some people.

07 - Bag of Bones

‘Bag of Bones’ is a grand example of how slow and heavy should sound at times, it is a mixture of their hardcore sound, a little bit more grunge in some of the tone once again and a kick in gut with a harsh set of lyrics about those days when everything becomes too much to bare.  There is a solo in the middle of this which is a good as anything I have heard this year, the main riff is a straight forward, powerful signature riff for the band and it hits home in a lot of ways.  An interesting, thought provoking song that will help a lot of people.

08 - Walking Catastrophe

‘Walking Catastrophe’ is a song about not reaching the goals which have been set by yourself (or a significant other) and not reaching that potential, the feeling of shame and failure which can be soul breaking.  It is a slow number, but it does not have the energy of ‘Bag of Bones’ or ‘A New Low’ and it feels a bit too stiff for this album. 

09 - Song for the Abused

Relationships can be destructive and counterproductive, whether that be with the world, a government, another human being who used to be a friend, a lover and sometimes yourself in extreme places.  ‘Song for the Abused’ is about this subject of destructive unions and the hard-hitting lyrics are joined by hard hitting chorus, subtle verses and a pulsing bass that carries the song forward, it is one of my favourite songs on the album.

10 - Little Spots of You

With a piano introduction, ‘Little Spots of You’ ends the album on the quietist moment of the album, mixing strings, painful lyrics and a longing which cannot be quenched.  It is short, deliberately painful and a stark contrast to the rest of the album.  It ends with a high pitch and then the crackle of either a record skipping at the end of the track or a heartbeat (sometimes these things can be the same thing).  It is a subtle way to end the album, bring a curtain down in whisper rather than a scream.

Whilst Life of Agony are not re-writing the rule book here, they are adding another layer to the history and have released a fantastic album.  Mina Caputo's vocals sound fantastic on this music, the band sound tight as bolt and it is one of the best Hardcore albums of 2017.   Now, let us be honest here as well – the band have not reinvented the wheel, themselves or the hardcore genre as it is business as usual in that department.  But I am not listening to a Life of Agony album to hear jazz fusion in the style of Frank Zappa, I am not listening to a Life of Agony album to hear avant-garde noise in the style of Waheela – I am listening to a Life of Agony album to hear big riffs, powerful drumming, rumbling bass, one hell of a vocalist and to engage in the world through a Hardcore/Alternative Metal album whilst releasing some of that energy that cannot dissipate in any other way.  It does not have to be anything more than that, so on that level it is mission accomplished.  It also helps when it sounds fantastic, crisp and fresh and this is also achieved, but without messing with the formula.  Let us hope that there is more to come from this reunion, the world is needing this sort of album.

8 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track – Dead Speak Kindly

You can purchase A Place Where There's No More Pain on Amazon here.

You can visit the Life of Agony website here - there is a link to get the album (as well as some fantastic looking coffee)!

You can follow the activities of Life of Agony on Facebook on the Life of Agony Famiglia page!

You can stream A Place Where There's No More Pain on Spotify here.

You can stream A Place Where There's No More Pain on Deezer here.

You can stream A Place Where There's No More Pain on Tidal here.

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