LIVE: Life Of Agony / Aaron Buchanan and The Cult Classics @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Glen Bushell

The idea of writing about a Life Of Agony show in 2017 seemed, at one point, almost unfathomable, least of all that they would be touring a new record. However, here we are at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, and the beloved New York band are in town again after releasing their excellent comeback album, ‘A Place Where There’s No More Pain’.

It was a fine return to form after 2005’s polarising ‘Broken Valley’, and Life Of Agony have overcome their differences, many of them personal to the life of vocalist Mina Caputo. She is finally in that place where there is no more pain, and it shows in the charming and radiant way she carries herself on stage, and the chemistry between the band; it’s almost as if they never went away in the first place.

Before they arrive Aaron Buchanan and The Cult Classics warm the crowd up, and are not an unknown quantity given the applause that greets them. The former Heaven’s Basement vocalist has all the pomp and swagger of a seasoned veteran, and there’s no denying that The Cult Classics are a formidable band that know who to write a riff.

The problem is that it all seems a bit derivative, and for lack of a better expression, this is the definition of ‘chicken in a basket’ rock music. They sound out of place supporting Life Of Agony, whose roots are planted in metal and hardcore, and would be more suited opening for arena-bothering bands like Alter Bridge or Black Stone Cherry. That said, given their accomplished playing, that time will surely come for them.

When Life Of Agony takes the stage they instantly catapult the room back to 1993 by launching into ‘River Runs Red’. It carries on with the thick, bottom end riffs of ‘This Time’ straight into the NYHC stomp that carries ‘Method Of Groove’. Caputo extends and changes vocal passages through each track, showing her ability as a vocalist with excellent diction and spine chilling range.

It is the light to Joey Z’s guitar playing shade, particularly on the emotional ‘Lost at 22’ and ‘Other Side Of The River’, which still hit like a weight being dropped on your chest. The up-tempo drive of ‘Weeds’ shows what the airtight rhythm section of Alan Robert and Sal Abruscato can really do, and that Life Of Agony still have the ability to make you want to break down in tears one moment, then spin kick your friend in the head to the breakdowns of ‘Bad Seed’.

Rather surprisingly, the band only plays two songs from ‘A Place Where There’s No More Pain’, but they cannily chose those that sound most like vintage Life Of Agony. No doubt this keeps the purists happy, who say they “only like the first record,” but with the barnstorming groove of ‘World Gone Mad’ no one should have any complaints. They sit perfectly next to ‘Through and Through’, and as the final notes of ‘Underground’ ring out, you are left feeling like you have just witnessed a timeless performance.

After nearly 30 years of being a band, and storied history that has covered triumph and heartache, there’s no limit to what the four piece means to their devoted audience. What the future holds remains to be seen, but if the past few years are anything to go by, Life Of Agony are here to stay.