While the epithet ‘tragically underrated’ ranks high on the list of egregiously overused phrases in music journalism, it’s dead-on for New York’s Life Of Agony. In the mid-90s, Life Of Agony emerged from the NY hardcore scene with an exhilarating sound that fused pounding tempos with sharp riffs, banging grooves and emotionally uncompromising lyricism. A 2003 reunion led to 2005’s Broken Valley – the band’s most polished and radio-friendly release yet – and this year’s follow-up, 12 years in the making, sees LOA drive their sound back into the big, bloody heart of the 90s. Opener Meet Your Maker is a growling, full-throttle belter with dissonant vocal harmonies that recall Dirt-era Alice In Chains, while A New Low taps into the manic urgency of Stone Temple Pilots’ Purple album. Vocalist Mina Caputo turns in another gutsy performance, fearlessly distilling her dark personal struggles into jagged and intensely emotional verse, most notably on the ethereal ballad, Little Spots Of You. However, too many tracks stall in that all-too-familiar quagmire of crunchy, mid-tempo alt-metal that, while dense and polished, lacks the kind of memorable riffs that stick to the walls of your brain. Worth checking out, if only because it leads you back to Broken Valley.
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