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Life Of Agony Bassist Alan Robert On New Album "Sound Of Scars"

New York has produced so many incredible bands over the years. From The Ramones to Kiss, Agnostic Front to Type O Negative, the Empire City has given the world an incredible catalogue of rock, hardcore and metal. One band from Brooklyn who took these three styles and created a sound of their own was Life Of Agony, who took the frustrations which so many teenagers and young adults feel and channeled it into three superb albums in their initial run.

Back once again and promoting their sixth album, "The Sound Of Scars," the conceptual sequel to their classic debut, "River Runs Red," the band are now in Europe giving fans a taste of new material. At the first show of the tour, I sat down with bass player Alan Robert to discuss the new album, how new drummer Veronica Bellino shaped the direction of the record and filming the video for "Lay Down" in a haunted house, among other subjects. You can watch it in full below.

Diamond Oz: The new album, "The Sound Of Scars" is out now. Why now did you decide to do a sequel to "River Runs Red?"

Alan Robert: Because you asked us! It happened really naturally, we were about four or five songs into writing the new record and... Well, I'll take you back. Last January we added Veronica Bellino on drums and when she joined the band, there was this new fire and passion in the band and we went back and listened to all the old records together so we could build a new setlist with her, to listen to the old stuff with fresh ears and new drive and everything.

She learned like twenty songs right off the bat and we played songs that we haven't played in, maybe ever. So by listening to things in that context, we noticed, for the first time from an outside view, that along the way we'd kind of abandoned certain songwriting elements like big gang vocals or breakdown parts in the middle of riffs that seemed non traditional. So we thought, "These things were so much fun to do, why don't we incorporate them into the new material?" So we were already in that mindset and so when we started writing "The Sound Of Scars," four songs deep, the word "scars" kept popping up in the lyrics and there's very similar themes (to "River Runs Red") and it seemed tied together in a lot of ways.

We've said many times that "River Runs Red" especially has helped a lot of people in dark times and we've been able to watch those people grow up with us, over the course of a few decades now and they look to us for inspiration and in turn they save our lives too because those songs come from real places. So to make a long story short, those people had a band like us to get them through dark times and we started to think, "What if this kid on 'River Runs Red' had something to get him through? What if he survived?" and that was really how we got there. So it happened very organically and when I presented the idea to the band as we were sitting and drinking coffee in Joey's house, it made an impression of everybody like, "Hmm, that's interesting."

Oz: That is very interesting. It's nice that, since the ending of "River Runs Red" is quite ambiguous, to have confirmation that that character is still around. It's great for people who felt such a connection to that album that the character on the record got through, just as they can too. As well as yourselves because like you said, it all comes from real places.

Alan: Yeah and still battling depression, myself included. Even when great things are happening in our lives, there's something right under the surface that tries to pull me down and a lot of songs come out of those moments.

Oz: You mentioned Veronica being in the band now. As a musician, what does she do differently than to Sal (Abruscato, former drummer) for example and other than lighting that fire in you, has she changed the dynamic of the songwriting?

Alan: Well, she's just a great energy and fantastic musician. She's brought a new sense of life to us as a group and we learned so much about each other and had so much fun on the road last year. We were on the road a lot, we were on the Rise Of The Underground tour and we brought out some of our friends like Billy from Biohazard and we played with Powerflo and Billy Bio, Sick Of It All and bands that we hadn't played with in years and we just had a blast, all together and she was a big part of that. Keeping things light on the road and always joking around and as a musician she's just so precise and so calculated, so she brings a certain precision to the playing, whether it's live or in the studio. In fact, we recorded the drums out in Oregon with Sylvia Massey, who's worked with Tool and System Of A Down and Veronica played on this hand made kit that Sylvia had and sounded phenomenal. Sylvia pulled us aside and said, "She's one of the best drummers that I've ever recorded."

Oz: Why the decision to record in Oregon? I know Joey has his own studio.

Alan: Joey co-produced the record with Sylvia and we thought it would be a good marriage in that we knew we wanted Sylvia to mix the record and we wanted her to get into the recording in some way. So we thought to lay the foundations with her, the way the songs were gonna go, all the arrangements... Record the drums with her in her studio out in Oregon and then work on the rest of the tracks in New York, then send the files out to her for her to mix and then she mastered the record in Los Angeles with Howie Weinberg who did Nirvana and Metallica's, "Master Of Puppets." He actually mastered the record analogue, instead of digital. We made a lot of conscious choices to chase certain types of tones on the record.

Oz: There's already been three videos released for the album, "Scars," "Black Heart" and "Lay Down." They looked like they were quite interesting to make. "Lay Down" especially seems to be more focused on the album's concept, whereas as "Scars" seems to represent more of the live shows. Were there any ideas for the videos to relate them more to the story or were they pretty much what you wanted from the get go?

Alan: I find that we have a lot of dreams about the way things go and then when you actually go there you run out of time or budget. So the "Lay Down" video came out great, we all like it but we all had a lot of ideas about certain transitions that ultimately didn't make the cut but that happens in everything. You always run out of time. But I think it came out cool. We shot it in a haunted mansion from the 1700s. It was a speakeasy during prohibition, someone was murdered there, there was secret rooms with baby dolls laying there. If you were gonna film a horror movie, you'd film it there.

The place is filled with black mold. You walk in there and your eyes are burning. It was located very close to a lake or a river and during prohibition, they would transport the booze in crates and they had dug a tunnel to the river, put the booze on sleds and dragged them through these tunnels right to the basement of this place, which was a bar and all of that stuff is still there. We did a photo shoot in there, it was interesting.

Oz: Obviously, it's a brand new album so you'll want to focus on promoting that, but at some point, do you think you'll perform "River Runs Red" and "The Sound Of Scars" back to back?

Alan: You're like the tenth person to ask me that this week! It must be a good idea because a lot of people are thinking that way. We hadn't intended to do that but it seems like a bunch of people have thought about that.

Oz: This is the second album out through Napalm Records, the first being "A Place Where There's No More Pain" two years ago. How's the relationship with them been?

Alan: They're great. Very supportive. I really can't say enough good things about them because with both albums, they gave us complete creative control. We signed a deal, made a record and gave it to them finished. No one was on the phone going, "What's it sound like? I wanna hear before you mix it." and all that stuff like we'd dealt with with other labels. They were the first ones who were like, "We know it's gonna be a Life Of Agony record. We can't wait to hear it." With this record they had no idea that we were gonna tie it to "River Runs Red" so they were very happily surprised about that.

Oz: Just finally then, what's in the pipeline for 2020? I know you've been confirmed for Bloodstock here in England...

Alan: Yes, that's going to be a great one. A lot of great bands at that one. We also announced our first ever appearance in Australia, which will be in January, plus a bunch more of announcements coming. We'll be busy next year!

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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