Life of Agony “Broken Valley” (©2005, Epic Records) a. k. a. The Preliminary Review
Okay you fucking metalheads, it’s time for an elevatorium dot org first!!!!!! Well, sort of.
A little back story, if you will, to explain.
Regular visitors of the site will probably remember when I was going to write a review of this year’s Academy Awards, but with a twist: A week before it aired, I watched all five Best Picture-nominated films, and after each one was viewed, I was going to write a review for each. In the end, I would announce which film I felt would win. Honestly, it was all about testing my industry knowledge while giving some free publicity and exposure to these new films I dug a lot.
Unfortunately, the whole Oscars review never happened, but the idea was pretty rad, and stuck out like a sore thumb in of my brain. I really didn’t know if I’d ever be able to implement something like that again, so it just floated around for a while.
Keep that in mind while we discuss this.
I often check the stats to the site. Of course, most don’t know I do log every iota that goes on around here, and not because I am such an information freak, hehe, but also I like to see if my interests pull in other people from all over the world. I’m happy to report that yes! You like me! You really like me! HAHAHA!!! Okay, okay.
One search engine result that’s currently driving the masses this way in droves is my rant about Broken Valley, the upcoming album by one of my favorite bands, Life of Agony. I know many of you are just dying to hear it, to get an audible glimpse, if you will. If anything, just a review of some sort, a snack. I can empathize with y’all. It drives me bananas, too.
Well, thanks to some “imagineering,” I have come up with a solution!
I know what you’re asking yourselves right now, does she have the CD? Is she going to give us tasty long-ass samples like she did in her other reviews? Hey, I said this was a fucking SNACK, not a goddamn buffet! What do I look like to you, a chef?!?! I’m lucky I know how to boil water for crying out loud! HAHAHA!!! Okay, all kidding aside, take what I said about my idea for the Oscars review, and just apply to this album.
I’ll be honest, though—there was some cheating done to make this review happen. Last year someone sent me a couple of live Life of Agony MP3s when they played a couple new songs at the Download Festival in England. I burned those to CD and while driving, I listened and honed in. I really dig those tunes and it was a lot of fun, because if you know me, you know that music equals mental visuals. I’m one of those people who can tell you what colors taste like, so I don’t know, go figure.
As of right now, anyone can buy the single for “Love to Let You Down” and “The Day He Died.” You can find those links down below. As for me, I have already heard those in full, plus the tunes “Justified” and “The Calm That Disturbs You,”—they were the live MP3s, so now I’m down to eight. Luckily, yesterday the guys decided to post 30-second samples of the entire album on their site, which I conveniently linked at the bottom to aid you in this review. Share and share alike, no?
Anyway, enough of the fucking back story, I know what y’all want, so let’s open the door! ON TO THE REVIEW!!!
Overall Review. My desperation for writing a review on this record has gotten so bad that I’m going to do this the way I do all my reviews: Give y’all my overall thoughts, and then break it down track-by-track, hahaha! I have to laugh about this, because seriously, this is the most silliest thing I ever thought about doing, but at the same time, it should somewhat help everyone out. At the very least, it will help me cope with not having the record just by writing about it. God knows I need to write about something worthy, might as well be this!
I don’t remember if I ever mentioned this, but a long time ago, I’d say maybe in 1994 or 1995, I predicted the original line-up of KISS was going to reunite, put out a new studio album, and be done with it. The following year the announcement was made. In 2000 or 2001, I said the very same thing about Life of Agony, again with a total gut feeling behind it. I mean, let’s face it people, the greatest bands in the world will always be around, whether it is in spirit or put together some kind of reunion. Luckily for us, the Brooklyn, NY, foursome decided to reunite.
Broken Valley is going to be, by far, what I would call a “reunion record.” What I mean is you can tell that not only this is extremely fresh material, but it still maintains the classic trademark sounds that have always defined LoA. You’ve got the specific crunchiness of Joey Z’s guitar playing that only he seems to be able to bring to the table, and mix that in with the careful blend of Alan’s bass and Sal’s drumming, only to finish it off with the true icing of the cake: Keith Caputo’s glorious voice. It’s all a perfect combination, as if destiny carved out in stone that these four would get together and create a band for the rest of us.
One aspect I am really thrilled with is that this is not a sequel of any kind. No River Runs Red II or Ugly II here. I am almost tempted to say, however, in some ways Broken Valley is reminiscent of Soul Searching Sun, but only as in this album should have been SSS. Perhaps there may be some distantly similar or vaguely familiar sounds to the 1997 record, but I can’t really tell you right now. What I can say is this is definitely a 2005 release that could probably be listened to in ten or twenty years from now, and never be dated to today. Come to think of it, all their records have that vibe, so obviously they’re doing a lot of things right.
On that note, let’s talk about the tracks!
Love to Let You Down. Ahh, track number one! Not only is this the tune that started it all for me, i.e. the review’s direction, but it is also the first single. And hey! Guess what! You can even see the music video the band filmed! Check it out here, but don’t bother ever going here to see it, because God knows these assholes aren’t showing it yet, and if they are, it’s not at a very good time, because I have yet to see it!
It’s so nice to be able to hear this track in full, and in a sexy, sexy 128 kbps AAC file, thanks to the iTunes Music Store. It’s amazing how 99¢ can make one so happy.
“LtLYD” is seriously a kick-ass opening track. If there were any references to River Runs Red or Ugly’s harder tunes, I’d have to say this would be it. If you look back at all the opening tracks on the studio albums, they seem to carry one thing in common: They’re all beefy and big; definitely true attention getters. Basically, the opening tracks, literally through notation and vocals, are saying (in those subliminal backwards messages), “We are Life of Agony, and we do not sound like anyone else, nor do we try to. We are here specifically to kick your ass while entertain you at the same time. There shall be no compromises and everyone is invited for the ride, but if you don’t want to come, that’s okay, too.” This track re-wrote the definition of respect, and it literally commands you to drop to your knees and kiss its feet. That’s a lot coming from one tune, but more importantly, it’s track numero uno. I remember the very first time I heard this song, it wasn’t even in full, and that’s what smacked into my brain within the first EIGHT seconds. It’s a super tune, and a phenomenal choice to open the record.
Last Cigarette. What’s interesting is after a slap-in-the-face opening track, you always get something a lil’ more dimmed or toned down. Although I can say that is how this track initially appears to be, there’s a hidden kick in the arse waiting to appear. Remember I’m doing this from just 30 seconds, not a full track, so bear with me.
Do I like this song? Sure, it’s an upbeat track that continues to maintain the trademark sound we love and ultimately expect from Life of Agony. Will it be one of my favorites? Possibly not, but I will still listen to it, regardless. Ultimately, it’s entertaining, and that’s what I would want above anything else.
Wicked Ways. Uh oh, I might have to retract saying that this album doesn’t sound like Soul Searching Sun! I don’t get it, what’s up with that tight snare drum head?! That popping sound wants to dive right into my own eardrum and pop it. Just because I say that doesn’t mean this song is bad, I enjoy what I hear from it thus far, it just doesn’t rub me in any special way.
Don’t Bother. I really feel this tune—track number four—is going to be given the “Most Entertaining” award to; hahahahaha, I just really freaking love it. It really makes me crack up, and that’s not being mean or misunderstanding at all! I just think it’s a really cool “experiment,” if you will. I don’t know if the band played this tune live yet plan to at all, but if so, perhaps that’s where the Scott Weiland/Stone Temple Pilots reference some have been saying comes from. In no other Life of Agony song would I consider Mr. Caputo to sound like a “Weiland wannabe,” he has by far one of the most original vocals in rock and roll. If you fail to hear otherwise, maybe you need to get your ears examined, or perhaps expand your musical tastes to hear what other shit sounds like. I mean, shit, rock and metal to me today is like having candy while on a diet: While you’re eating specific foods in specific portions, once in a blue moon it is okay to indulge in some heavy duty sweets and junk food. Fortunately, my metabolism allows me to indulge all the time, so… I don’t know, you figure it out.
Strung Out. One of the major reasons why I don’t write as much as I should for this site is because of the title of this tune. HAHAHA, Jesus Christarooni, I am so lame sometimes.
However, it’s good to know that while I am being retarded, I can truly dive into this tune and say to myself, holy shizzle! This track really captures something deep within me, and because it does, I seem to dig it plenty. I like how it’s all drawn out, and in some ways it seems to be strategically sequenced on the record. Musically, it really reminds me of “Love to Let You Down,” or an extension of it, and being placed as track number five allows you to come back to the root of the CD and remind you that you’re listening to Life of Agony, and not some cheese-ass commercial band. Kudos, boys, this may be one of my favorite out of the harder tunes on the album.
Junk Sick. Another staple in the Life of Agony roster of songs is Keith’s scriptures to his parents, as I’m going to take that into assumption with this tune. Although we are not given much within the sample, this is really one of the tunes I am looking forward to the most to not only hear it in full, but reading the lyrics about four hundred times. Musically, it warrants itself to be possibly another winner in my book amongst the harder stuff.
The Calm That Disturbs You. As we dive into this mosh pit of new offerings, we get to track number seven, and this track I had the pleasure of hearing live a while ago. I truly loved it then, and I dig this sample of its studio counterpart, as the only difference it is recorded in the studio.
No One Survives. No idea what this track is about yet, but I can tell you one thing—I know it is going to be my ultimate favorite from the album.
Someone mentioned there was a “ballad” on the new record, and I really didn’t believe it, but when I heard its sample, I was like, WOW! And talk about the influences that immediately shot out from these mere thirty seconds: Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, also, very oddly enough, it sounds like it belongs in a film or possibly a part of musical theatre. Phantom of the Opera really stuck out big time on this one. I am DEFINITELY looking forward to this track, just because there’s lots of sadness and depression in there, and it just oozes it out like no tomorrow. I fucking LOVE this!!!
Justified. As we mosey along into track number nine, we discuss the other live MP3 I had.
I really love this tune, it’s very “bottom-of-the-gas-tank” heavy and gritty. I sense something militant about it as well, it actually shows more in the studio version than the live MP3, but I still have yet to hear the studio recording in full! Aahhh! Another one tossed into the barrel of heavier song winners! I’ve been pretty partial to this one for a long time.
The Day He Died. Oh man, this is the biggie. Every Life of Agony album has a song I just cannot listen to the whole way through without bawling my eyes out or just getting the most sickest feeling in my stomach, as if someone just force-fed me a brick. River Runs Red has “Bad Seed,” Ugly has “Let’s Pretend” and “How It Would Be,” Soul Searching Sun has “Tangerine” and Broken Valley has “The Day He Died.” Congrats track ten, for being the winner.
I seriously cannot handle this tune. Musically and lyrically, it’s divine, but the bluntness of the subject matter really digs deep into my heart and gut, and could upset me to the point where holding back tears is just not an option. I have not one clue why this song affects me so deeply, but because it does, it is the most respected tune on the album. Even after I get the album and write up the official review, I would never go back on this song. I truly salute it, and major props go out to Keith for having the balls to write and sing something as personal and full blown out as this.
Broken Valley. Hey, look at that! It’s the title track! It’s also track eleven out of twelve, meaning our extravagant ride is coming down the last road; so far, so good!
And what does this lovely song bring to you and I? It’s another droney, heavy tune, and just now it reminded me of another song which I completely forgot the title of, let alone the artist. No biggie, though, I like it, and I like how all the songs contain that certain amount of intensity and heaviness that makes it a Life of Agony song. It’s so good to know that in the current sea of horrible rock bands, we still have floating buoys like Life of Agony to direct us towards the safer areas of the water.
Room 244. Our final piece of this future audio masterpiece is, I believe, an instrumental,but don’t quote me on that. I can only do so much on 30 seconds, hehe.
What would really by hysterically freaky is if this tune was titled Room 268, as that was my dorm room in college, haha! Close enough, though.
Final Thoughts. Upon first listening to “Love to Let You Down,” I don’t know if it’s the KISS fan in me, but I totally detected a similar vibe in KISS’ Psycho-Circus album. Both records were created out of a desire to reunite and show the world who they are, and that out of years of being apart, the magic and chemistry still resides within them to put out terrific music. It’s moments like this, records and bands like these, that remind me why I got into music to begin with.
With that in mind, I highly encourage everyone out there to go to your local store and buy this album come June 14. Europeans will be pleased to know you get it on the 30th of May. Buy it and make it debut on Billboard at number one, because in all honesty, it seriously will not disappoint you at all. If you are disappointed however, I will be more than happy to strap you down in a chair and give you a Music History 101 lesson that you’ll never forget, with my favorite professor sidekick, Doc Marten!
Here’s some happy links to get y’all started…
Click here for the Broken Valley Sampler!