The project acts as a sequel to the band’s seminal 1993 record “River Runs Red.”
Practically 26 years to the day that alternative metal act Life of Agony released its debut, River Runs Red, the band is set to deliver its sixth studio album, The Sound of Scars, on Oct. 11 (Napalm Records).
The Sound of Scars (which can be pre-ordered here) picks up where 1993’s River Runs Red left off with melodic, hardcore tracks that flow beyond the original story of a teen who attempts to end his life. The aftermath of that event is played out in audio snippets and song — much like River’s format — as a survivor still coping with his troubled past. Starting with “Prelude,” Scars opens the same way that Red eerily ended, with the sound of blood dripping on water, then shifts into the events following that fateful decision. Like River moved through its audio labeled “Monday,” “Thursday” and “Friday” documenting the teen’s troubled life — losing a job and a girlfriend, learning that he wasn’t graduating and living with a verbally abusive parent — Scars continues with “Then” (where he’s revived at a hospital), “Now” (his wife reaching out to his doctor) and “When,” where we find him in the doctor’s office trying to fight his demons and the scars before visceral closing “I Surrender.”
Originally, Scars (which was produced by Syl Massy, known for her work on Tool’s 1993 debut, Undertow, and with System of the Down and Cage the Elephant, and co-produced by band guitarist Joey Z.) didn’t start out as another concept album. But according to bassist Alan Robert, several songs in there were clear underlying themes of survival that steered it in that direction. As longtime fans of Pink Floyd, Life of Agony was always open to making a concept album, and while it wasn’t intentional at first for Scars, much like River, the story just started unfolding naturally as they started working on the record. “That’s always been an aspiration of ours, to create something almost cinematic as far as the audio is concerned, creating these audio scenes that connect the story,” says Robert. “It’s just something that’s really compelling to us.”
The deep relevance of the subject matter surprised the band. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate has increased by more than 30% in half of the states since 1999. Throughout the years, Life of Agony has met fans worldwide who have said that River literally saved their life.
“It’s just become really apparent to us that the message of the band is ‘Hey, you’re not alone,’ ” he says. “We’re all going through this together, and we’re all survivors in our own way. It’s become the core of the band, helping people. And you can really see it at the live shows. These songs really connect to people on an emotional level.”
Newer songs, which have been sprinkled in during Life of Agony’s recent European tour — like “Empty Hole,” one of the tracks that drill in the message of survival — are already resonating with fans, according to Robert, as well as the first single, “Scars,” which speaks more to the original story and the state of the band three decades after it originally formed in Brooklyn. “The word ‘scars’ has been popping up in lyrics on this record, but it was very similar to River Runs Red where everything happened organically,” recalls Robert. “It wasn’t forced. It just felt right. It almost wrote itself in a way, even down the release date: Oct. 12, 1993.”
Billboard is premiering the video for “Scars” today. Watch it below:
Today, Life of Agony is in a better place than it was throughout most of the 2000s, where the band experienced an on-and-off hiatus. It took 12 years to release its fifth studio album, A Place Where There’s No More Pain, in 2017, which was also a reflection of singer Mina Caputo’s own struggles, particularly after coming out as transgender in 2011.
“I think Life of Agony’s MO was always to write for the individual that felt as if they couldn’t go on anymore,” says Caputo. “We stuck with that for years, and everyone goes through it. It doesn’t matter if you’re trans, gay, white or black or whatever. However you want to separate things into little subdivisions, people go through shit.”
Now, with the addition of drummer Veronica Bellino (who has worked with Jeff Beck, Run of Run-DMC and LL Cool J), there’s a new dynamic to the band, according to Caputo. A friend of Joey Z. for years, Bellino was the only drummer the group asked to audition to replace longtime drummer Sal Abruscato, who now fronts A Pale Horse Named Death along with former fellow Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly.
“It’s like how a stocking goes on a woman’s leg,” Caputo says of Bellino. “It just fits. The energy and the frequency are like how the pyramids were built on magnetic fault lines. There’s a magnetism now that’s scorching. We have two masculine energies, and you have this pure female energy, and then this combination of both. It’s like Voltron.”
The band is having more fun this time around, something that was lacking in the past, according to Caputo and Robert. Its members also wrote the album together, a departure from texting lyrics and riffs to each other, which was the system for the last album. “That’s really what the old days were about, just connecting one-on-one,” says Robert. “We had this chemistry since we were kids. We started this band when we were kids, and it’s this unspoken bond that can’t be replicated. We’ve been in the band longer than we haven’t been at this point.”
Caputo is proud of where Life of Agony is now. “We started as just a bunch of punk kids that were just doing it for each other, in a sense,” she says. “The fact that we have had the opportunity for all these years to be better than the pharmaceutical companies and the therapists out there is just a blessing. The fact that we’ve saved so many lives … It’s encouragement to carry on another day.”
For information regarding tour dates, go here.