The Agony Scene - The Darkest Red - Roadrunner Records 2005
11 Songs
Running Time: 37:29

The self-titled debut from Oklahoma's The Agony Scene was as frenzied and scattered as a Jackson Pollack painting, referencing bands so diverse as The Crown and...The Crown. Even so, it was energetic, decently-played metal from a band just getting comfortable with trading in their technical beginnings for a more straightforward attack. And an attack it was, never once dropping below warp speed, and even managing to do metallic justice to a Rolling Stones cover in the process. And so, when I heard that the band had signed to Roadrunner, I lamented the loss of a band with arguable potential to the corporate machine. Surely, the new album wouldn't be the same The Agony Scene as before. Well, it isn't, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in this case. The title track of The Darkest Red has more dynamics than the entire debut, courtesy of actually having a production budget that could get you more than a Supersized Combo #3 at McWhatever's. I must, at this point, confess being a fan of the rawness of the debut. Even so, it's nice to know the past two years have forced growth in the songwriting department. 'Screams Turn To Silence' slams through your cranium with verses recalling the energy of the debut, while a newfound sense of vocal melody carries the chorus without succumbing to the typical metalcore trap. Fans of Swedish metal as played by The Haunted will salivate over 'Sacrifice', and the double-bass fills of 'Prey' may just be enough to keep The Agony Scene out of being lumped in with 90% of the Ozzfest crowd. 'My Dark Desire' suffers from a chorus that seems out of place in the context of the song. I just can't seem to hear what would otherwise be a finger-snapping pop hook dropped into a neak-breaking metal song and have things turn out positively. I'm sure the label had a bit of say in the melodic sensibilities found here and there on The Darkest Red, but if one delves a bit deeper, they'll likely find something enjoyable within the album. After the letdown of 'My Dark Desire', the band are quick to redeem themselves with 'Scapegoat', which takes the intensity of the first album and pushes it even further with biting vocals and a riff that's the musical equivalent of taking a cheese-grater to your forearms.

If you liked the first album, will you like The Darkest Red? I'm quite sure you will. Due to the band's fashion-friendly appearance and occasional melodic flirtations, they'll surely be lumped in with the metalcore scene. Is it a fair comparison? No, not to my ears. As it stands, The Darkest Red is a decent listen, and a good first major-label showing from a band that made "the jump" and landed mostly on their feet.

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