Life of Agony's third album sees the band expanding their sound quite considerably. Tagged with the hardcore label, which I don't think ever suited their music or Keith's singing, many fans see their debut, River Runs Red, as their best album. Personally, I think Ugly is the better, but fans of RRR who found the adjustment to Ugly difficult, are probably going to have a hard time adjusting to the new sound, unless they want to adjust.
The difference is not only in the music, which at times is more varied, and shows the dreaded maturity, but also in Keiths vocals. Always a standout point for the band, he's now altered them so that they don't have quite the same sense of overblown that previously dominated, especially on Ugly. It makes it more listenable, and is part of the reason maybe, why people will think this is 'lighter' and therefore a sellout. It's not. The lyrics are still as miserable as ever, though as always, they are miserable in that able to lift you manner.
And musically the band are widening their horizons, away from the Sabbath sludge fest. There are now some ballads, songs with pop sensibilities, though the likelihood of ever hearing them on the radio is pretty remote at best. Some of them don't quite hit the mark, but the majority do, and make for an excellent album.
Standout tracks for me are, Hope, Gently Sentimental, Desire and Haemophilliac in Me, which maybe shows their maturity as well as anything. A great song, that is extremely catchy and familiar sounding. Keiths vocals do dominate the album. There's lots of nice stuff going on musically, but you keep returning to the vocals. In a time of anguish, a true vocalist always stands out.
So, if you're an old time fan, you need to approach with an open mind based on what you'd previously heard from the band. If you're someone who has always been put off by the tag Hardcore then approach this album. Ignore the term, because it really doesn't apply, and enjoy this album for what it is. You'll get a lot out of it. So really, everyone needs an open mind, but in different ways.
Lots of bands recently have changed their sounds quite considerably. It makes you a little bit suspicious. Some have been slagged for it. Rightly. But it's often thought of as been due to the change. It's not. It's due to whether the music changed to is good or not. Some isn't. This is. Could've done without the re-working of Let's Pretend though as one of the bonus tracks. Ugh, bands having a crack at a techno or dance beat just for the sake of it. That's where criticism is often justified. But it's trend, and therefore, not often criticised enough.