Documentary Review: “The Sound of Scars,” a metal band’s Coming Out Story

In a streaming universe where whole channels are devoted to music documentaries, it’s inevitable that almost any band you an think of, any band anybody cares about, is going to merit a film telling their story.

Many of these films are “Behind the Music” formulaic, with the odd variation on a theme. Anvil never made it, for instance.

But “The Sound of Scars,” which tells the story of Life of Agony (LOA), stands out by telling us the story of its lead singer’s transition, from tortured and sometimes even suicidal Keith Caputo, to Mina Caputo, who she is today.

This transition happened just as they were about to break big. And the film’s story arc follows takes us from replacing their singer, to bringing her back as Mina, with struggles and triumph and a refreshing level of acceptance from their fans if not the entire hardcore scene.

The members — Caputo, guitarist Joey Zampella (Joey Z), bassist Alan Robert and recent-replacement drummer Veronica Bellino — tell tales of enduring “Raging Bull” childhoods in Brooklyn (Caputo and Zampella are cousins), where alcohol, abuse and violence were a part of daily life.

The founding cousins got their starts as roadies for other Biohazrd, which played in their local metal club L’Amour, where stage-diving and “letting out (testosteroned teen) aggression on each other” with stage diving, crowd-surfing and brawls were very much a part of that cacophonous scene.

When they formed Life of Agony, with songwriter/bassist Alan Robert coming up with the name, they staked out a more melodic, possibly even radio-friendly corner of hardcore. They still had an audience member die during a show there, and spent time in court over that calamity.

Had Caputo not wrestled with “the genderlessness of life,” and eventually quit to come out and reconcile the fact that “I’d always been feminine,” even in their most rough-and-tumble days, that accidental yet inevitable consequence of violent mosh pits (“Pitting” as Joey puts it.) might have been the focus of this film. It’s all “Somebody tried to steal my sneakers” crowd-surfing fun until the ambulances show up.

Perhaps a future Pearl Jam doc will take on that.

Director Leigh Brooks, who also did a Terrorvision-on-tour doc, interviews band members, record company folks and at one point has Robert’s parents (a lot less “Raging Bull” than the Zampella/Caputos, apparently) unironically read Alan’s bleak lyrics from the back cover of one of their LPs for a “Steve Allen Show” era laugh. As music docs go, “Scars” is almost entirely reliant on one “hook” Otherwise, the range of interviews is too narrow, the entertainment value limited.

But Mina’s journey has been an interesting one and the band is very much a big deal, as Rolling Stone referred to their debut LP, “River Runs Red,” as one of the great metal albums. And the title of their latest, which also gives the name to this film, points to exactly what this troubled journey to triumph is — “The Sound of Scars.”

Rating: unrated, profanity, violence, discussions of drug abuse, suicide, adult subject matter

Cast: Mina Caputo, Joey Zampella, Alan Robert, Veronica Bellino

Credits: Directed by Leigh Brooks. A Cinedigm release.

Running time: 1:30

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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