(Wil Cifer made an unexpected discovery when coming across a new album by the New York hardcore band Age of Apocalypse, which was just released by Closed Casket Activities, and he provides an enthusiastic review below.)
This album was on my top 10 most anticipated albums of the year list. Where most albums on the list I had not heard, the stream of this was sitting in my in-box. However I tell record labels this all the time, that I will only listen to a stream a few times. I either review it as I listen or just move on to the next album waiting in the in-box. I need to have an album on my iPod, to provide the soundtrack for my day in order to fully absorb and unlock the creative puzzle of what it is about. Otherwise I am mainly going off my first impressions, which might not be wrong, but are not fully explored or researched if you will.
My first impression of this album was that it could have come out in the ’90s. This is a compliment, for the ’90s were a very awkward decade for metal. While death metal really came into its own, other genres found themselves trying to shed the arena sparkle of the ’80s as they were caught between grunge and a hard place.
Some great albums emerged in that period that were not affected by the collision of the decades, one of them being Life of Agony’s 1993 album The River Runs Red. An album this band would have drawn inspiration from as they share a great deal of common ground with it.
Upon my first few listens this album’s combination of crooned yet aggressive vocals and jagged guitar grooves emulating hardcore breakdowns made an impression. Once I allowed this album to live with me, I have heard not only how they are doing their own thing, but how they have perfected the path their influences embarked upon in the ’90s. Life of Agony’s first album felt like it combined Type O Negative’s depressive emoting with the attack of Biohazard. The latter being the part of the equation that left some margin for error. As long as the vocals were depressive I was ok with the tough guy stomping, which made “Method of Groove” a fast forward classic as the vocals had a more rapped cadence to them that were more like Biohazard.
Imagine if that kind of dated foolishness never took place. This album is heavily hardcore influenced but none of that comes from the kind of hardcore that postures in Adidas tracksuits.
The guitar is almost more thrash-influenced than hardcore. This kind of riffage sets them apart from their influences, which are not strictly Life of Agony. There are points that remind me of harder versions of both Only Living Witness and AFI. The harder element is what should be emphasized, as that makes it aggressive enough to hold up against today’s standard for metal.
As songwriters they excel by keeping a balance, allowing aggression and melody to share the same space. It is one of the heaviest albums with sung vocals that I have heard in a minute. On songs like “Rotten Kingdom” the band speed up to more of a punk pace, though the album generally hovers around mid-tempo chugging, with “Ghost” kicking your ears in with a powerful stomping groove. The vocals do not forget their purpose even when the heaviest chug commands you to bang your head.
“Pain of Creation” offers another beating but with the metal factor in the guitar dialed as high as it can go, before they have to rip out guitar solos. The last song opens with what sounds like it is going to be a hardcore beating, but shifts into an impressive melodic groove.
This incredible album is being released on Closed Casket Activities, and is at least my favorite album of the month. We shall see how it grows on me as the year unfolds. It was one of those discoveries that made sifting through random bands in my in-box worthwhile. If you want some dark emotive metallic hardcore of the sorts that pay homage to the ’90s this is the band you did not know you were hoping to find.