Released: 2005, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Tulsa, Oklahoma’s The Agony Scene are the latest screamo/metalcore band to be generating some serious buzz these days. Formerly a Christian hardcore group, they butched it up a little for their self-titled 2003 debut and got the attention of Roadrunner Records who signed them in summer 2004. One year later and we have THE DARKEST RED, a moderately predictable helping of alternating shrieked/pained vocals, double bass, dual guitars and angry but melodic songs. Sound familiar? Well, it is but despite the sense that there is someone out there selling a “how to” book on this type of music, THE DARKEST RED isn’t too bad. Less heavy than Unearth but nowhere near as overtly commercial as Atreyu, the guitars of Steve Kay and Chris Emmons pack plenty of punch and the huge production comes courtesy of Anthrax’s Rob Caggiano. Michael Williams’ vocals alternate between a black metal shriek to the occasional growl and his clean vocals are certainly some of the better I have heard from this genre. Still, there is an overwhelming sense of “I’ve heard this all before” that clouds things over.
The now-mandatory (for some reason) instrumental lead-off track on any metalcore release is here, of course, and as always, is entirely pointless. Brent Masters’ rollicking drums kick off the title track and the riffing is deliciously melodic. Williams’ shrieks and blood-curdling screams are mixed with an almost spoken word delivery that works at this level. “Scars of Your Disease” is as close to an As I Lay Dying homage (rip-off?) as I have ever heard but Williams’ vocals are a bit more varied. And using a cowbell on a metalcore CD?! Whoda thunk it?? “Screams Turn To Silence” and “Prey” boast serious hit potential and Williams’ clean vocals in the choruses should warm the cockles of Atreyu fans everywhere. Things take a turn for the vicious with “Suffer,” a seriously heavy slab of metal, with incredible drumming and Williams screaming his head off. “My Dark Desire” follows suit with scads of pinch harmonics before the contagious chorus rears its head once again.
Herein lies the problem with THE DARKEST RED. The music is expertly played but too many of these songs sound eerily similar to one another. So much so that it takes several listens to really differentiate between “Screams Turn To Silence,” “Prey” and “My Dark Desire,” for example. They are all solid tracks but they also sound like basically the same track! With so many albums out there to choose from, and with the inevitable downloading, a band had better be damn sure that they can keep the listener’s attention right off the bat because they may not be back for round two or willing to drop $14 for a CD.
Fans of Atreyu, Trivium, Unearth, As I Lay Dying, etc. will eat up THE DARKEST RED. This is safe yet aggressive metalcore with plenty of hook-filled melodies, a nice helping of Swedish-inspired guitar play and pissed-off vocals. Don’t dig too deep, though, because The Agony Scene doesn’t seem to have a lot beyond the surface based on this release. Hopefully they will continue to evolve and find their own identity on release number three.
KILLER KUTS: “The Darkest Red,” “Scars of Your Disease,” “Screams Turn To Silence,” “Prey,” “Suffer,” “My Dark Desire”