Release DetailsLABEL Roadrunner
RELEASED ON 5/16/2005
The Agony Scene
The Darkest Red
posted on 4/2005 By:
I feel guilty over this. I feel like I've just given the latest In Flames record a perfect score or something. To break it down to you, this is actually good, but you probably shouldn't admit that to some of your more "dedicated" metalhead friends. I haven't felt this ashamed since I announced to everyone that I loved Machinehead's The Burning Red, something I feel like I've already admitted on this site before.
To most of the readers out there, I'm sure it seems like I'm overreacting. And I am. What's going on is that this is archetypal modern metalcore. Gothenburg-tinged, thrashy, with clean sung vocals and grandiose production. It's pretty much everything I'm against, as a person and reviewer, but The Agony Scene manage to do it so well that even my bitter and jaded self just can't seem to tear it to pieces. So while there's a lot of melodic and flashy riffs, they manage to keep it caged and under control with less complex and headbanging rhythm guitarwork. They don't lay their cards on the table right away, and there's nothing to do but commend them for this shrewd move.
After a while, you begin to figure it out. They depend on their ability to balance undisguised aggression with catchy guitar hooks, and even catchier choruses. "Scars Of Your Disease" has the slightest Lamb of God tendency to it and also features some of the greatest vocals and even choruses on the album, a mix of the usual higher pitched desperate screaming with a furious mid-range yell. While the straightforward guitar provides the main skeleton for the song, there's some distant and ominous high string work happening beneath the other thick layers. The Agony Scene do share so many leanings with popular and less respected acts around, the band's single, so to say, is "Prey", a song with melodramatic clean singing that later-era Soilwork and All That Remains fans would ooze over. Aside from that, while there are still a few parts purists won't be thrilled about, they escape unscathed with their sheer memorability. "Suffer" stays as a direct and rhythm reliant song the entire way through, pausing only for a slower clean-sung melody, but picking up stronger than even before. It's definitely a highlight on the album as it's completely stripped down, yet just as powerful. They're a great band who know exactly what belongs where - so when you hear parts where you're about to grimace and prepare for some lofty singing, you're surprised after realizing that it's just not what's in store for you. The final track, "Forever Abandoned", proves this element and drives the point home, ending the album with a feeling that what you just heard was credible, instead of the prevalent impression that you just got tricked into enjoying something you'll never listen to again and cheated out of your money.
There's slick production working in The Agony Scene's favor, which I'd imagine mainly affects the immaculate singing on The Darkest Red. I'd be really interested to see if Michael Williams is capable of pulling off both his gritty yells and clean emotional passages in a live setting. And as crisp and clear the instruments sound, there's always something subtle going on in the background that you might not catch the first time around, whether it's purely studio wizardry or an effect on one on the second guitar.
So to put it into simple terms, these guys are more than likely to explode in popularity once this record hits stores. Whether your relationship with metalcore is a positive or a negative one, get yourself accustomed to seeing shirts and stickers and hearing kids with unbalanced and odd haircuts continually namecheck The Agony Scene. While I'm not looking forward to it, it's leaps and bounds above seeing Avenged Sevenfold tattoos. There's nothing here being offered that you haven't heard before, however, there's a level of great overall execution that makes The Darkest Red stand out in a sea of contrived clones. It's metalcore for metalheads, so give it a chance.
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