It makes me feel old to realize that Life of Agony’s debut album River Runs Red came out twenty-nine years ago. That was 1993 for those of you whose math skills are as bad as mine. Sharing its name with the band’s sixth album, The Sound of Scars from director Leigh Brooks (Terrorvision: Wired Up and Scary) tells the band’s story, but not in the way you would expect.
Rather than the story of the making of the music, The Sound of Scars is the story of the making of the people who made the music. It’s about what made them into the people who could write the lyrics and music that made them famous. And that left them in a position where that fame nearly destroyed them because as you can guess from the name of the band and the film, this isn’t a story of happy homes and storybook lives.
The centerpiece of the film is the band’s vocalist, Mina, born Kieth, Caputo, and her childhood that included being found in a playpen, her parents overdosed on the floor next to her. Her father survived although she would later have to identify his body after he met the same fate as her mother. She and her cousin, guitarist Joey Z also talk about the alcohol-fueled domestic violence they dealt with growing up.
Of course, dealing with gender dysphoria in that kind of environment provides another set of stressors. Her dealing with this and eventual transition and temporarily leaving the band after its third album is also a powerful part of The Sound of Scars. As is Joey’s reunion and reconciliation with his father and their reflections on the past.
What is perhaps the most shocking moment in The Sound of Scars though involves neither substance nor physical abuse. Bass player Alan Robert talks about his struggles with depression and that is followed by his mother wondering aloud how he and his sister could suffer from depression when the family are “aren’t the depressing people. We’re all pretty up and have a good life.”. How out of touch and downright stupid does a person have to be to have two children suffering from depression and not do even enough basic reading on it to understand that success or having “a good life” has nothing to do with it?
“We’ve never avoided tough conversations and we don’t pretend to have all the answers. But this film is a roadmap with many great lessons. It shows a ton of vulnerability… moments of falling downward, and those times where we rise strong.”Mina Caputo
Brooks mixes these memories with some great footage of the band’s early days, including some performance footage shot at Brooklyn’s legendary L’Amour where they, like so many other metal bands got their start. Even that is tinged with tragedy and the death of a fan at one of their shows and the effect it had on them is also covered.
As a result, The Sound of Scars is a movie with something to offer a lot of audiences, not just Life of Agony fans. Obviously, anyone who is dealing with, or has had to deal with the issues the band members did will find plenty of interest in the film. And metal fans, especially those old enough to remember the scene in the early nineties, will find the concert footage a nostalgic look back.
My gripes about The Sound of Scars are minor. I seem to recall what was said at the time about former Ugly KId Joe singer Whitfield Crane’s stint with the band being very different from what is said here. And I would have liked to have heard more from current drummer Veronica Bellino or anything at all from original drummer Sal Abruscato.
The Sound of Scars is a powerful and ultimately uplifting film Mina’s attitude towards her detractors, especially the transphobic ones, is a source of inspiration for anyone who’s taking shit for being who they are. Cinedigm has released The Sound of Scars to VOD and Digital platforms. You can check their Facebook page or the film’s website for more details. You can also find out about Life of Agony on their website. And you can find more music industry-related films on FilmTagger.