Of all the albums I've heard this year, I can't think of one I've simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded as much as this. Life of Agony's 1997 opus 'Soul Searching Sun' was virtually flawless, and the prospect of a second round had me creaming myself. But, of course, there was always the chance 'Broken Valley' would be standard reunion fodder and piss all over the band's fine legacy. So which is it?
The former, fortunately. 'Broken Valley' picks up precisely where 'Soul Searching Sun' left off: this is top notch melodic hardcore with a strong retro edge, everything Audioslave promised and failed to deliver. Most of the album is straightforward riff-verse-big chorus rock, distinguished by crunching guitars, radiant melody and the charming vocals of Keith Caputo. There's not a lot of variety, sure, but who needs variety when the songs are this good?
It's the occasions where the template is torn up that the most interest lies, of course. The title track is a stop-start epic with painfully delicate verses and a soaring chorus: one of the few moments here that stands fully apart from LoA's previous triumphs and shows a way forward. Of the generic, 'Last Cigarette' and 'Junk Sick' stand out but, to be honest, it's a continuous high and the peaks are relative ones. Only a couple of inconsequential shorts break the flow, and the quality of the remaining twelve tracks compensates.
9Nick Lancaster.'s Score