Now this is kind of interesting. Finally got some stuff from RoadRunner again, and the first is the new Keith Caputo. And it could well stir things up just a smidgen. After first listen it becomes fairly obvious why he left Life of Agony when he did. Following his departure he formed the briefly lived Absolute Bloom, whose demo highlighted a more melodic, lighter, almost more pop oriented direction. And for his first solo album, he follows that direction even further. Which is going to cause a commotion amongst LoA followers. The bottom line here is musically, this is not a heavy album. Donít even go looking for it. There are some moments that rock more than others, some where the guitars is relatively cutting, but for the most part, itís much more subdued than that. Sometimes it works, and works well. Sometimes, well for me it doesnít and unfortunately borders on the completely bland. Itís also fairly evident that itís an album youíre going to have to listen to a good few times before it all sinks in.

There are two obvious highlights for me initially, Cobain (rainbow deadhead) and Lollipop. Cobain, as you might guess, is about that bloke what wrote Nevermind. Yeah, still influencing as Caputo sings "Cobain was murdered by you." It kind of gets into your head pretty quickly, but itís a highlight in that Iím not entirely sure I like the sentiment. Yeah, it may be directed at the notion that the press drove him to his ultimate action, but for all the arguments both ways, it still strikes me that if you donít like it, you just walk away. Easier said than done, and of course most of us will never experience the same emotions and lifestyle he did, but carrying it through still to this length, well personally I think the refrain is used toooo many times. Of course I would prefer he was still around making music, or not making music, but he ainít. And is the "you" the press or the fans? Musically itís almost jazzy, little delicate hammond organ parps, a laid back lazy bass line, lounge it up. Nice, itís kind of in a vein to Evidence from FNM - and we all know what an utterly awesome song that was. Lollipop is an example of where the newer lighter more melodic nature of the material works to itís best. The bass line is lovely, itís pure pop and drives it along in a manner most rock tracks never approach. It just works. Which is a shame itís then followed by Upsy Daisy, which is an example of where it doesnít work and just sounds terrible to these ears. The closing track Brandy Duval is strange as well. Aparently about his deceased mother, itís obvious from the lyrics that itís personal, and the music fits it, starting out spartan, just Caputo and a piano. But then the middle section comes in, and itís just too quirky, odd to fit with the lyrical and emotional content. Well thatís how I see it.

Elsewhere Selfish has made the transition from Absolute Bloom demo to the album, and Razzberry Mockery and Home are further excellent tracks. The bio stuff claims influences of The Beatles, Soundgarden, Ben Folds Five, but I have to say I donít hear it myself. But theyíre acoustic led tracks, gentle and soothing, and Home has to take an award for the most ludicrous lyric of the century as he croons to "recommend a psycho therapistic scan of your brain". Er, yeah, ok.

Overall, this is a good album. Itís certainly different for RoadRunner and itíll be a challenge for the more ardent LoA fan. Itís one of those that will have the label "mature" attached to it. Make of that what you will.Approach with caution, but personally I would recommend you approach.

The next one is the Life Of Agony 1989 - 1999 compilation CD. Interesting to be able to listen to this straight after the Keith Caputo. Mature is not the word that is initiialy going to spring to mind. If youíre not aware itís an odds and sods collection that brings together a number of demo tracks and b-sides from, well, Ď89-í99 surprisingly enough. Otherwise it wouldíve been entirely incorrectly labelled.

Opener Here I Am Here I Stay is from their 4th demo, and the acoustic gentle intro belied their alleged hardcore roots. Sure, it soon nips into a chug and holler kind of routine, but the band never were just another hardcore band. Itís not bad, nice riff and whatever. Never heard the original, but I think it probably wasnít as slick in the old production as this. I personally wouldíve preferred they not remix all of the tracks. It gives lie to the meaning of the demo track, and for those people perhaps encountering them for the first time via a collection like this it puts the wrong impression into the mind. Demos are often warts and all recordings, where you sidestep the dodgy production in order to see if there a song and something about the band that you like. I can understand that as bands progress they want their sound to improve, and almost distance themselves from the rawness of the early days, but well I prefer it. Personally I still love the production on the first Iron Maiden album - that raw nature, even if the band cannot. Itís one of the things that make a release. Bad production can become an integral part of why you like something. Depression is one of their heavier moments, Caputo sounding a completely different beast to the vocalist he would ultimately turn into. Me, I hear little hints of Anthrax in there, while Plexiglass Gate starts out in a maudlin kind of manner Type OíNegative wouldíve been proud of. Fortunately it turns into something more interesting, with a classic "metal" riff. I like this one. It never appeared on demo. Which probably tells you something about my taste and the people who actually write musicsí tastes! Obviously thereís some good, some bad - Companions does nothing for me. But itís an insight into a period of the band that pretty much most of us werenít present at. You take it for that and nothing more. Dancing With The Devil shows what a metal band they were, the sees for Other Side Of The River being clearly visible in there, while Step Aside is old skool hardcore. Most interesting of course is the S.O.D. cover of March of the S.O.D / Sgt "D" and the S.O.D. Purely cos itís S.O.D and is great, mosh, that riff the pound. Oh yeah. You canít go wrong with a bit of S.O.D

Elsewhere a number of tracks such as Coffee Break, Redemption Song, Tangerine (Re-Zep) have been available elsewhere, and it would be better to try and root out the actual albums - I still see them in the shops, it is probably still possible to get them. But Redemption Song shouldnít have been done - you canít better some artists, and Bob Marley is one of them.

Interesting? Yeah. Essential? Probably for the completist.