Listening to Life of Agony now, New York City's hardcore/heavy metal hybrid that made a dent in the alternative rock charts in the mid-Nineties, you may be astonished that these guys didn't leave a bigger mark. The songs on River Runs Again, culled from the band's three-album career, bristle with a passion and intensity that must have bypassed me the first time, as Life of Agony got unjustifiably lost in a sea of bands that all started to sound the same. Some of these 18 songs — performed by the original lineup from Life of Agony's revered first album, River Runs Red, which reunited for two sold-out shows at New York's Irving Plaza on Jan. 3 and 4, 2003, after disbanding four years earlier — sound like relatively straightforward anthems of angst compared to today's standards. Still, it's clear that Life of Agony mines influences ranging from Black Sabbath to Stone Temple Pilots to Metallica to Radiohead. In an ideal world, this album would spark renewed interest in the band.
In a surprise move during between-song banter, the players take a break from the relentless aural assault and frequent use of the term "fuck" to express concern about the safety of moshers in the pit, as well as remember the victims and survivors of Sept. 11, 2001.
River Runs Again is topped off with three bonus studio tracks from the band members' side projects. Bassist Alan Robert's post-grunge group Among Thieves performs "Consequence," drummer Sal Abruscato's percussion-heavy Supermassiv plays "Fake" and vocalist Keith Caputo sings "Were What I Say." A DVD of the gig, sans bonus tracks but with plenty of other bonus material, is also available.