After six years New York's LIFE OF AGONY came back together in the original line-up in early 2003 for two reunion shows taking place at Irving Plaza, New York, both sold out. The result is titled "River Runs Again: Live 2003" and in form of a double CD lies in front of me.
The problem with live albums at times is that you do not know the original material, so how does that look like in this case, with me, who does not really count Metalcore one of my favourite styles? Well, I have their 1993 debut "River Runs Red" on tape and for big parts really like it. I have heard the second album "Ugly" (1995) a few times and the third one, "Soul Searching Sun" (1997), is completely unknown to me. So do I think that I am suited to do a fair review for "River Runs Again: Live 2003"? I have no clue, but won't let anybody hold me off doing it...
The music of LIFE OF AGONY is Metalcore with the very distinct vocals of Keith Caputo, which had been extremely melodic for this style and still are, combined with intense compositions, which still contain a lot of melody that sets them apart from the rest of other bands. Catchy, but not somehow commercially prostituting (the stylistic changes between the albums can be seen as regular evolution) and well consumable for fans of both camps.
This double CD contains material from all three albums, which has to face two points of criticism by me: For one the sound at times is not as powerful as I would have wished (especially, if you have the studio version of "River Runs Red" as comparison) and secondly does Keith Caputo's voice partly not reach where it should (which unfortunately and mostly can be heard on my personal favourite LOA track "Through And Through") and also lacks some of the power that made it so outstanding on the debut.
As bonus we then also get three studio songs, one by AMONG THIEVES, the new band of Alan Robert (modern, more rooted in Alternative Rock/Metal than the LOA sound, doesn't sound bad), SUPERMASSIV of Sal Abrusciato (modern Metal of the newer American school, but with a bit more melodic vocals), and one by Keith Caputo solo, which really frightened me, because this piece sounds really weird and twisted, with a strange drum sound that sounds as if recorded two rooms down, a bit of guitar and more whined than sung vocals, to write this review I listened to this song exactly twice, but I can assure you, never again!
I can definitely recommend "River Runs Red: Live 2003" to fans of LIFE OF AGONY, because to be able to hear the band after all those years surely is worth it, who never liked LOA before can leave the double CD where it is without second thought and who has not know the band so far should maybe start out with "River Runs Red" to get a taste of them. (Online January 10, 2004)