Vocalists in metal bands spend a lot of time screaming. Guttural growls and shrieks connect them to their fans, many of whom find precious catharsis in these cries. The band members of Life of Agony perhaps have more cause to scream than most. Several members survived domestic violence and tragedy in their youths, many struggled with substance abuse and all experience depression. But their suffering allowed them to speak authentically to a legion of fans.
Leigh Brooks sensitive film follows the group as they reflect on their early struggles, their sudden rise, and even more abrupt disbanding. At the centre of this chaotic narrative is Mina Caputo, the lead singer of the band who stunned her fans and bandmates by coming out as a transgender woman decades after their formation. She speaks earnestly and humanely about her experiences revealing a mind at war with itself. The distress she experienced before realising her true gender identity is explored through home video and troubling
Brooks also makes time to follow Caputo’s friends and family, making time for their confusion and pain without ever losing sight of the simple reality of Caputo’s identity. Touching, if uncomfortable, scenes with her family demonstrate people who love her but frequently aren’t quite sure how to respond to her. Fortunately Caputo is a powerful personality who eloquently speaks about her pain and needs.
The film is also a fascinating insight into the world of heavy metal music. Though keen to demonstrate how the often transgressive and outsider nature of the music made it easier for Caputo to find acceptance, we are not spared the vitriolic reaction that some members of the community had to her gradual period of realisation. The film crucially demonstrates how the bands first taste of real success helped distract them from the traumas they had experienced, but it was only through each other that they finally found some form of release. Brooks tells a sublimely human story of pain and trauma and the relief that can be found in shared experience.