Sound — 9
This was one of the first albums I picked up when I was first getting into metalcore. I may have been a newbie to the entire genre, but I recognised originality when I heard it. The Agony Scene really pulled away from their first self-titled release and revamped their sound in this album. They've totally broken away from the generic melodic death/breakdown style of their predecessors and have gone in a more thrash influenced direction, keeping their hardcore roots close at heart all the time but still managing to put in interesting noise overdubs. They've managed to balance the sing/scream parts well enough that it isn't instantly predictable creating spine-tingling, uneasy and downright enjoyable sound scapes. Rob Caggiono has really done a very decent job in producing the band capturing their sound perfectly, capturing all instruments to their fullest potential. Pete Webb's double kick technique is intense and precise, but is also very astute in not over-stating parts of songs leaving plenty of space for the guitarists to work around. The guitar work from Chris Emmons and Brian Hodges is pulled off very well, with interesting overdubs and interludes in between all the mayhem. Chris Rye's bass work also does very well in keeping the sound solid and at the odd occasion, leans out and gives the song more character in a guitar dominated genre. Michael Williams diversity is stunning at times, being as astute at screaming as he is singing melodically (which he does very well). My only complaint about this album is that certain songs fail to stand out as different to the others, with certain parts of the album blending a little too seemlessly. Still, their experimentation has given them a new direction and it will serve them well on tour and providing the ground roots for even more branching out in their next album.
Lyrics — 9
Michael Williams lyrics seem to have come from a very dark place inside of him indeed, with subjects of self mutilation, helplessness, love/lust gone wrong and general suffering. Even though the lyrics don't stand out as starkly original in parts, I as a listener feels that every single line is heartfelt and true to the singer's intentions. Williams vocal ability is quite unreal at times, with screams so high and intense you wonder how his voice box hasn't torn itself in two from the sheer angst and hatred he pours out of it. This constant screaming also hasn't affected his ability to sing melodically, managing to always stay and key and only sings and screams where the song calls for it, not where it'll sound "heavy". Williams is also very easily able to hook a listener into certain lines and choruses, whether he's screaming or singing. I feel he does this most effectively in the track, "My Dark Desire", which I simply cannot resist singing and screaming along to. A brilliant effort by this singer.
Overall Impression — 9
In the realm of metalcore, this release tends to stand by itself. Their melodic death metal influences haven't been totally shredded but have certainly been reduced hugely. Their crusty and discordant overdubs give their songs a character lacking in the genre and manage to sound heavy without having to resort to cliches. Standout songs from this album are "The Darkest Red", "Scars Of Your Disease" and "My Dark Desire". Overall, a brilliant album, it's definetly worth the listen.