|The Agony Scene – The Darkest Red|
Release Date: May 24, 2005
Record Label: Solid State Records
The Agony Scene have returned to the metalcore scene with their excellent sophomore release, The Darkest Red. After the band’s departure from Solid State Records, The Agony Scene found a home with metal powerhouse label Roadrunner Records. With a vastly underrated debut album under their belts, The Agony Scene are about to release an album that will silence all critics and wash away any thoughts of a sophomore slump.
The Darkest Red is an interesting progression for The Agony Scene. Their first self-titled album, while full of talent, became monotonous as far as vocals were concerned. The instrumentation shredded, but the songs were grossly unvaried and the album just blended together as a whole. This is not the case this time around. The Darkest Red is a far more diverse album than its predecessor. The vocals vary from dark, guttural screams, to the more trademark scream of the band – high-pitched, frantic, and full of insane energy. There’s more singing on this album than the last, but make no mistake – this band has not sold out or become weak. The singing is used in the correct places, breaking up parts of unbridled energy by inserting melodic and memorable choruses. “Prey,” the first single off the album, is a great example of a song starting off with pure metal insanity and then branching off into an excellent melody.
The instrumentation on the album is nothing short of fantastic. The band has improved a lot since their last release, most notably in percussion. The drums come fast and hard throughout the album, full of quick and tight double bass runs, hard snare rolls, and the likes. The percussion drives a lot of these songs forward, and while it is nothing jaw-dropping, what makes it so impressive is how tight it is. The production does nothing but aid this, with loud snapping snares, and crisp bass drum hits. The guitar work is still very much trademark of The Agony Scene, and if you listened to their first album you’ll recognize their sound immediately. The band is very fond of hammering notes in the middle of their runs, and instead of long solos, the guitar players tend to transition between sections with quick squeals on the guitar.
The album itself is quite simply one of the best metal albums you’ll hear all year. From the minute the double bass kicks in on “Darkest Red” to the passionate cries and heavy breakdowns of “Forever Abandoned,” there are very few weak spots on the record. Each song is full of its own energy, and this album manages to do something that very few metal albums can do – keep its momentum from start to finish. The ordering of the tracks lends itself to a great album flow. Tracks 5 and 6 move from the breakneck pace of “Sacrifice” to the initially intense, then more melodic rendition of “Prey.” It also helps that the two strongest tracks on the album come after the halfway point.
“Suffer” begins with a sense of urgency, racing the verses forward into the absolutely huge chorus, where the percussion calms and the vocals scream out “Lay down/I’m your father/Would you die for/Your affliction?” This section of pure intense passion brings shivers down my spine. It only gets better with the 10th track, “Scapegoat.” From the minute this song begins, you can tell that it is going to shred your pants off. Classic Agony Scene hammered metal riffs alternate with tight pumps of the double bass until they join forces and initiate head banging in all directions. One thing that I absolutely love about The Agony Scene is that they have breakdowns within their choruses. Where other bands settle for breakdowns where a bridge would normally be, The Agony Scene throws them around all over the place, making for constant head-banging action. Additionally, “Scapegoat” has a super sick breakdown around the 2 minute mark. Listen, and be in awe.
The flaws to this album are few and far between, and are greatly overshadowed by the pure energy of the disc. You are not going to find a token acoustic track or ballad on this album – it shreds from start to finish. While the vocals have gotten more varied, the pitch of the screaming is still pretty much the same at all times. A few of the middle tracks sound strikingly similar, and while The Agony Scene has a distinct type of guitar work, it grows a little bit old to hear it for 37 straight minutes. The instrumentation is unbelievable, but it’s just not that varied. Fortunately, the qualms I have with the record just don’t sour the listening experience that much. Nonetheless, The Darkest Red is one of the strongest metalcore albums to be released since Unearth’s The Oncoming Storm. It’s a vast improvement from their previous release and fans of all kinds of metal and hardcore will enjoy this record. Even if you’re not into metal, check out this release when it hits stores – it may be the album that changes your outlook on the genre.