Life of Agony – “River Runs Red”


The making of Life of Agony’s “River Runs Red”

released: 1993

label: Roadrunner


When I was sixteen years old, I listened to four records obsessively: Metallica’s …And Justice For All …, Kyuss’ Blues For the Red Sun, the first Danzig album, and Life Of Agony’s River Runs Red—the last of which I thought was my own private musical discovery (like every other jackass with cable, I saw the video for “Through And Through” on Headbanger’s Ball). By the time I was 19, I had learned that I was not alone. I wasn’t the only one who went to those bizarre, mismatched LOA shows with Clutch or KMFDM; I wasn’t the only one who knew the words to the whole album. Produced by Type O Negative keyboardist Josh Silver, River Runs Red was the work of songwriter Alan Roberts (bass/backing vocals/lyrics), Keith Caputo (vocals), Joey Z. (guitar) and Sal Abruscato (drums), four kids from Brooklyn with the kind of personal lives that make you wonder how they even got out of bed in the morning, much less made one of the most definitive underground records of the early ‘90s. But who’d have guessed they were total Floyd nerds? For a band that was ostensibly associated with the NYC hardcore scene, Life of Agony weren’t really much of a hardcore band. Keith Caputo is an actual singer with an impossibly mighty voice; Joey Z’s full-metal solos are straight from the Kirk Hammett school of amphetamine-shred, and Alan Roberts wrote the kind of hard-knock concept record—at age 20—that most 30-year-old prog-rock dorks couldn’t dream up in their most vivid Jim Carroll fantasy-headaches. After parting ways in 1997, the four original LOA members reformed in late 2002, and recently recorded their comeback album, Broken Valley, due out in May 2005. Decibel went back to the beginning, to get the wrenching—and occasionally hilarious—story behind River Runs Red.

—J. Bennett

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