If you’re looking for an unbiased, objective look at Life of Agony’s new two-disc River Runs Again live album, you should probably just stop reading now and look elsewhere. I’ve seen Life of Agony perform live three times (every time they’ve come to Oklahoma, I believe). I’ve got a stack of VHS concert bootlegs sitting above my VCR, bought every CD they’ve put out, made “sampler cds” and given them away to friends to promote the band, recorded a cover version of “Bad Seed”, and even wrote a Praise the Gods article dedicated to the band which ran on White Trash Devil. Short of building a Life of Agony shrine in my front yard, there’s not much else I can do to show my love for this band.
Quick history lesson. After the band’s third studio album was released in 1997, the group began to unravel. lead singer Keith Caputo left and was replaced by ex-Ugly Kid Joe vocalist Whitfield Crane. Shortly after completing the tour, LOA broke up. The chances of me seeing the band live a fourth time looked pretty bleak. All four members formed projects and continued making music, but the sum of the parts was obviously greater than the parts themselves (see: Sepultura).
Six years after Keith’s departure and almost five years after the band officially called it quits, Life of Agony reunited for two sold out shows, performed on January 03-04 in New York City’s Irving Plaza. Those who were lucky enough to get tickets (the shows sold out in a matter of hours) got to see something incredibly special. The rest of us who live 1,500 miles away and couldn’t get tickets (grumble) will have to settle for 2003’s River Runs Again, the recording of those shows.
For not having played together for five years, Life of Agony shows very little ring rust. Mixing songs from the band’s entire catalog, the band kicks off the live show with “River Runs Red”, the title track from their first disc, and heads from there into “This Time,” the opening cut from the same album. The track list is very crowd friendly, covering all the classic LOA tracks like “Bad Seed”, “Lost at 22”, and “Let’s Pretend”.
The band’s performance is very loose. There are a few screw ups, a little microphone feedback, and a whole hell of a lot of feeling, which is exactly the way I love my live albums. Caputo shows he is not afraid to change up his vocal delivery on some of the songs, and the crowd shows they have not forgotten the band’s work, by singing right along with every track. Crowd noise is audible on every track, and the band’s effort to both capture and deliver the live experience to the listener is definitely successful.
The beginning of the second disc shows some early pacing problems. The first four tracks include “Tangerine”, “My Mind is Dangerous”, and an acoustic version of “Let’s Pretend”, with “Lost at 22” thrown right in the middle to keep the crowd awake. Fortunately, from there it’s a sprint to the finish with three River Runs Red classics: “Underground” (a crowd favorite), “My Eyes”, and the band’s first hit single, “Through and Through”.
If I had to find something negative to say about the release, it would be the three songs tacked on to the end of the album. The Super Massiv, solo Keith Caputo, and Among Theives tracks are interesting but not particularly good. Cut those three tracks and you’re down to an 83 minute release; cut a little stage banter (or “My Mind is Dangerous”) and now you’ve got a one disc release (I’ve already burned a copy like this for the car). It just feels wrong ending an awesome live album with three tracks from side projects. If you really have to have a 2CD release, cram all the LOA tracks on disc one, and fill the second CD with all those side projects (speaking of which, where’s Joey Z and Dan Richardson’s Stereomud stuff?).
They say “you can never go back.” Whoever “they” are haven’t heard River Runs Again. For at least two nights (and what now seems to be more, with a European tour in the works and rumors of new material surfacing), it’s as if the band never left. A must have for all fans, and the perfect place for those who have never heard the greatest hardcore crossover band of all time to begin.
“Unwilling to change for society, we’ll be who we wanna be. We are the underground.”
01. River Runs Red
02. This Time
03. Other Side Of The River
04. I Regret
08. Method Of Groove
09. How It Would Be
10. Bad Seed
11. Heroin Dreams
02. Lost At 22
03. My Mind Is Dangerous
04. Let’s Pretend
06. My Eyes
07. Through And Through
08. Consequence (Among Thieves)
09. Were What I Say (Keith Caputo)
10. Fake – (Supermassiv)