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Life Of Agony River Runs Again -- Live 2003 CD & DVD

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Wednesday, November 12, 2003 @ 6:10 PM

(SPV Recordings)

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“When you go through stuff like that with a bunch of guys, man- it’s like, it’s done- it’s embedded for life…” – Sal Abruscato

The reunited, reinvigorated, original line-up of Life Of Agony convened for the first time in over six years at Irving Plaza in New York City this past January 3rd and 4th, 2003 for two sold-out shows: (shows which sold-out in about 15 minutes each, and had scalpers asking $250 a ticket!), culminating in the CD/DVD that is River Runs Again. They might have called it, “La Dolce Vita,” as it boasts the absolute best packaging since Anita Ekberg jumped into the ‘Fontana di Trevi’ in the Fellini film of the same name…

Somewhere between movie and soundtrack, and recorded over two nights, this collection offers both retrospective and a fresh look at the original line-up that recorded River Runs Red and Ugly: Keith Caputo, vox; Joey Z, guitar; Alan Robert, bass; and Sal Abruscato, drums. Life Of Agony’s music has always been dark and heavy: tantamount to being hit in the head with a two-by-four. A harder Type O Negative without keys: Sabbath goes to Brooklyn for a slice…

First-timer listeners will be blown-away, and anyone familiar with their work will be very pleased to hear how amazingly true to the essence of those discs this band is, when performing live -- after years apart. Somehow, after all the water under the bridge, these guys are still a band, and a family

“This song goes out to my family…” – Keith Caputo, introducing “Let’s Pretend”

To understand “Life Of Agony” on this live collection is to come to know the men who make up the legendary New York band, which imploded much too soon. Singer Keith Caputo’s mother overdosed on heroin, and very recently, so did his father; Joey Z. and Keith are cousins. This is referenced within the CD/DVD and bears mentioning: this band, called, “Life Of Agony” knows a little something about overcoming adversity. That feeling is captured within the music, both audibly and visually, and it is overwhelming at times. It is there in the guitar, it’s in Keith’s voice, it’s in the heavy stomp and rich fills of Sal’s drums. These are the things that drive humanity -- love and loss -- agony -- and what drives LOA to succeed herein. These guys have been through it all, have lived to tell; and succeed in telling it well

The musicianship is phenomenal. Six years or more since this line-up has played together, and they are none the worse for wear -- in fact, far superior. Their playing exceeds expectations. These guys are an amazing, amazing band: a tight unit – hard -- and filled with passion. Life Of Agony rocks, and could teach a few lessons while they’re at it. This band has influenced so many contemporary bands, and still outshines them all. It is wonderful to hear and even better to see them back together. Keith’s vocals are as large as his heart; the guitars are bombastic and the tone -- that LOA tone -- is forceful and ever-present, and Sal’s drums… well- one day someone will mention his name along with John Bonham and Dave Lombardo.

“I wanna see this shit get rough..!” – Alan Robert, introducing “Through And Through”

Given that the DVD allows visuals that the CD does not, it is difficult to isolate the one superb moment within this package -- there are too many. “Shit Gets Rough,” and both CD and DVD are able to display the hard-edged rock of “Bad Seed,” “Method Of Groove,” “Weeds” and “River Runs Red,” as well as the sad, subtle charm of the acoustic-only Keith on “Let’s Pretend” and the horrible beauty that is “Heroin Dreams.” It should come as no surprise that “Through And Through” is a diamond stand-out among an assortment of glittering gems. Repeated listening only confounds the listener as to which ONE song should be exalted above all others (this reviewer keeps coming back to the smoking version of ”Bad Seed”), although there are so many stand-outs… picking a favorite song out of this collection is like trying to pick just one Playmate out of Hef’s Jacuzzi…

This band is fortunate enough to have a live sound that bests the recordings their fans have come to know intimately, as well as boasting an excellent videographer who is able to capture every inch of a live show -- particularly at Irving Plaza, which is saying a lot. They are shot from so many angles, the viewer gets to feel as if they are watching from both the pit and the stage while they perform. LOA is at the top of their game, here. This is a concert you do not want to end. This package also features a selection of footage which incorporates interviews, discography, photo stills and interview out-takes. The CD has the complete show and also offers three selections from various members’ post-LOA solo-projects. All of them fine and good- but this incredible live set begs the question-“Will they do a new record?”

“…I just wanna say, ‘cause I have ta fuckin’ say it -- last night and tonigh --- you guys…definitely the happiest two nights of my life..!” - Sal Abruscato, at the end of the show.

River Runs Again is available as a double CD, a DVD and a “complete package.” This is an absolute must-have necessity for any fan; and a fantastic introduction for new listeners. (It would make one hell of a Christmas present to boot!) LOA is currently touring in Europe, where they are massive; hopefully this release will prompt a US tour. If or until that time, this recording and DVD is a mirror to an incredible legacy, and hopefully, a glimpse into the future.

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