Review Summary: As heavy as it is melodic, The Darkest Red remains a gem of metalcore and the crowing achievement of The Agony Scene's sound.
Metalcore is very hit-and-miss these days, especially with all of the bands coming out in recent days with breakdowns galore and enough generic material to fill an entire album. Starting out from Tulsa, Oklahoma and not breaking into the spotlight immediately, The Agony Scene released their self-titled debut (produced by none other than Adam D.) but gained little recognition apart from their cover of The Rolling Stones' Paint it Black. The album showed the sound of a band that had potential, but wasn't using it right.
Fast forward two years later, and the band released The Darkest Red
. The album presented a change in their sound that injected more melody in their songs, and it was extremely successful. An eerie intro gives way to crushing riffs and drum work as the title track enters, presenting vocalist Mike Williams for the first time. His vocal style is the instant highlight of the band with his menacing growls and shrieks. His style is caught between metalcore and hardcore punk and it carries every song with relentless aggression.
As the record progresses, you begin to notice it has something that their debut didn't - variation. Songs like "Scars Of Your Disease" and "Sacrifice" have crushing breakdowns and great vocal work and refuse to let up, but songs like "My Dark Desire", "Screams Turn To Silence", and "Prey" (the albums lead single) all feature clean vocals from Williams. Although his range is limited, his cleans are a great break from his screams and work nicely, especially on "Procession" which features a melodic bridge which proves to be one of the highlights of the album.
Although Williams proves to be a great part of what makes The Darkest Red
such a memorable album, it would not be nearly as aggressive as it is if it weren't for the rest of the band as well. Guitarists Chris Emmons and Stephen Kaye provide heavy and melodic riffs that burn their way through the album, and the breakdowns are actually interesting and are placed well. The bass is extremely heavy and has a very punchy tone, rivaling the guitars on songs like "Prey" and "Scapegoat" where it is most relevant. Brent Masters was the best drummer in the bands short-lived career, and his performance on The Darkest Red
is exceptional. On "Suffer", arguably the heaviest track the band has ever recorded, he pummels his kit with ferocious blast beats and great fills. He doesn't just keep the pace for the other members, he is the reason why the songs sound as heavy as they do.
If there is something that will live on from The Agony Scene now that they have disbanded, The Darkest Red
will live on as their crowning achievement and their best work. Everything they have done here is a complete progression from what they started on their self-titled debut and their sound was at its best with this album. The band would go on to lose a lot of its members before the recording of their third and final studio album, Get Damned
. This loss, especially the loss of Masters as the drummer, would impact their sound greatly. It was still a good album, but it went for a more hardcore influenced sound and there was too much filler and generic breakdowns littered throughout it. Here, on The Darkest Red
, the band were having fun with an extremely aggressive metalcore sound and gave us an album that will go on as a lost gem in metalcore from a band who had so much going for them before their untimely demise.