A lot has happened since LIFE OF AGONY initially exploded from the nexus linking New York hardcore and metal in the early nineties. The band captivated the underground with "River Runs Red", a melodic, metallic hardcore tour de force. Following the group's sophomore effort, "Ugly", it took its high-adrenaline intensity and grit and applied it to alternative rock with 1997's radio-friendly-styled "Soul Searching Sun". The album was followed up eight years later with the similarly sculpted "Broken Valley".
It's been a decade since the band last entered a recording studio together, and "A Place Where There's No More Pain" marks its first effort since vocalist Mina Caputo, born as Keith, came out as a transgendered person. For Caputo and fans alike, LIFE OF AGONY's passionate music, music that's instantly soothing and appealing, remains a conduit through which one can express emotions on a deep level.
"A Place Where There's No More Pain" features the unit's classic "River Runs Red" line-up—Caputo as well as guitarist Joey Z. , bassist Alan Robert, and drummer Sal Abruscato—and the band successfully synthesizes the driving power of those early days with the hook-laden melodies and hard rock structures it first introduced on "Soul Searching Sun". The end result proves to be even more catchy than anything from the group's previous work. The unbridled energy of hardcore is evident throughout. Yet, the New Yorkers only dive into a manic hardcore-like surge during the title track's pre-chorus, and at points during the brooding, low-end heavy number "Bag of Bones", a song that is very reminiscent of TYPE O NEGATIVE.
"Meet My Maker" sets the tone initially with a fist-clenching, groovy riff. From the get-go, Caputo is firing on all cylinders, as passionate as ever and possessing a greater command of her voice that paradoxically delivers vulnerable sentiments with confidence and authority. The next track is just as burly musically and beautiful vocally with an ALICE IN CHAINS-like appeal, true to the feel and spirit of the earliest of LIFE OF AGONY's material. Album closer "Little Spots Of You", meanwhile, reflects the band's depth with minimalist, subtle piano and Caputo's ethereal voice outlining a cold sense of negative space that might represent everything from fear to uncertainty. It's a profoundly chilling way to conclude the album. Caputo is clearly one bold enough to confront and address the most challenging of personal struggles and emotions; proven by the bravery with which she came out as a transgendered person in a music scene that's so often dominated by machismo and bravado.