Think you've heard all the twists Metalcore has to offer as the increasingly-overstuffed genre kicks and screams its way skyward from the underbelly of the do-it-yourself network and into more “mainstream” outlets? Do you find yourself wondering if there's anything left to contribute to the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal? Well, while the rest of the world was busy chewing all the flesh from the bones of the scream-sing scene's cadaver, The Agony Scene decided to square themselves away in a Deliverance-worthy environment, buckle down and reinvent the wheel. And now they've emerged with a sharpened musical battle-axe called The Darkest Red, an album poised to crack the contents of each and every spectator's skull all over the floor.
"We are really, really proud of this album," declares drummer (and co-founding member) Brent Masters. "When we wrote The Darkest Red, we weren't taking much of an influence from anybody. We were just writing parts that felt good to us."
"We have new members and you can hear everybody's input,” adds singer Mike Williams, not to be confused with the EyeHateGod screamer of the same name. “We put a lot into this record because we were trying to break away from being The Agony Scene that everyone knew."
The band's self-titled debut (produced by Killswitch Engage's Adam D.) was filled with promise, but admittedly saw them wearing their Swedish Death Metal and dissonance-soaked hardcore influences on their sleeves. It was a solid start... But with this new album, their first since reforming with a recharged lineup after a rocky breakup, The Agony Scene have fully come into their own. The Darkest Red fuses crusty-punk dissonance, crushingly brutal breakdowns, European metallic-harmony, a bit of melodic singing and pulverizing rhythms like never before. The entire proceedings have been injected with a disharmonic breadth and expansive destruction. The album's title track captures the fresh energy from the first time Williams, Masters, and longtime guitarist Chris Emmons hit the practice space with new bassist Brian Hodges and new guitarist Steve Kaye after a hiatus that included the birth of Williams' first child.
"The title track is the first thing we wrote - we were trying to go in a new direction and it was our first attempt at making our own thing," explains Williams. "We were all so thrilled to be in a room playing together. That song is the most defining for us as a band."
"Screams Turn To Silence" is another standout track. The album's first single, "Prey," is the fruit of the band laboring to perfect their skills, with its adept blend of melody and heavy barrage.
"We've really developed our own sound. We've gotten all musicians together that really click, as far as playing, and our music naturally matured as a result of finding that right combination," Masters says. "It's what I've always thought The Agony Scene should sound like in my mind," he adds. It's a vision that new producer Rob Caggiano (Cradle Of Filth) was able to bring to light with his emphasis on eliciting top-notch performances. "Rob's a total workaholic and he wouldn't accept anything other than our absolute best," beams Williams.
It's all a sonic brew that could not have been birthed anywhere other than the middle of nowhere. Heavy metal, sweat-soaked hardcore and punk rock have all enjoyed plenty of contributions from Europe and coastal North America: areas that have produced genre-defining bands, to be sure, but have alternately been burdened by an even larger glut of cannibalizing copycats taking their cues from each other rather than true life experience and inspiration. Unless you're looking to work at Whirlpool or State Farm Insurance there's not much to do in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The town where the American Indian population ended the infamous "Trail Of Tears" in 1836 is desolate, isolating, and of little comfort to the artistically inclined.
"Mike and I have been in bands together since I was thirteen, and growing up where we did, it made our mindset different, our sense of humor, a lot of things," explains Masters. "I don't want to bash anyone from bigger cities with more of a music scene, but basically, we don't have 'peers' where we come from. There is really no heavy music scene. We write music for ourselves as opposed to latching onto a bandwagon," adds Williams. "We were trying to create something out of nothing. What we write is honest.”
Welcome to The Agony Scene. Welcome to the very loud sound of the American waste.