Updated March 16: This show has been canceled. Refunds will be available at point of purchase.
At 46, an avid reader with over 2,000 books in her collection, Mina Caputo humbly acknowledges that a lifetime of tragedies, traumas and misunderstandings could result in a bouquet of midlife wisdom for some. But Caputo credits her own lessons learned to her prayers to a cosmic goddess who responded to Caputo's plea for wisdom by kicking her ass.
Aside from her studious life as a bibliophile, Caputo has a very different full-time gig. She's the vocalist and frontperson for celebrated Brooklyn metal veterans Life of Agony, a band that's been going strong since the early 1990s, when a trio of teenage friends – Caputo, guitarist Joey Z and bassist Alan Robert – united to make an ungodly roar. Life of Agony's intense 1993 debut album, River Runs Red, catapulted them right out of the underground and onto MTV, the covers of magazines and multiple world tours.
A true optimist and believer in the universe as "a friendly place," the frontperson for the 30-year-old metal phenomenon counts all her experiences on this planet as blessings, unforgettable and empowering. Yet, before existing in this state of empowerment, she slogged through hell on earth. As a transwoman, Caputo existed for a long time in a camouflage shell that matched the oppressive notion that a person's biological sex is aligned to their gender.
Living a hidden life turned Caputo into a ghost, and she's gentle with herself as she reflects on this period of her life. "I wasn't really living out my soul's interpretation of who I am, and what I am, and where I'm going, and why I'm going through what I'm going through," she remembers.
That denial of self was worsened by absent parents and abusive guardians, and eventually led Caputo to decide to live her authentic truth. She quit her band, started solo musical projects, and then finally made her way back to Life of Agony, working alongside original bandmates with the addition of drummer Veronica Bellino.
Just as she practices authenticity in her personal life, Caputo brings the same philosophy and energy to the stage. "My energy is right here, right now. I'm not a plug-in vocalist, I'm not a plug-in musician, and I'm not interpreting or vocalizing things the same way. Every night is very different."
On the day Caputo speaks to Orlando Weekly, she's anxiously awaiting the start of the Beast Coast Monsters tour, with co-headliner Doyle of horror-punks the Misfits. This tour very appropriately kicks off on Friday the 13th and showcases the band's 2019 release, The Sound of Scars. Caputo speaks of the magic she learned from watching Robert Plant, Queen and David Bowie, transforming that sense of wonder into a "fiery force" of singing and performance.
Life of Agony bassist Robert describes "Lay Down" off The Sound of Scars as "an anthem for survivors." The album exists as a sequel of sorts to River Runs Red, which chronicles five intense days in a young person's life. That record ends on the darkest of cliffhangers, with the ominous sound of faint echoes of blood slowly dripping onto a bathroom floor – ostensibly the result of a suicide.
"It's haunting. I am the album," sighs Caputo as she parallels her life with the heavy themes of desperation and perseverance on The Sound of Scars, an album that seamlessly begins where River Runs Red ends. The dismal ending of River Runs Red left listeners on a defeated note, but the story of The Sound of Scars reveals that the protagonist of the debut album survived the suicide attempt and is making peace with that near-death experience.
Similarly, for Caputo, the daily personal decisions we execute for ourselves hold a deep significance in what's to come: "I'm just setting up my life now for the next life."
And her life now is very much lived in the moment. As singer and focal point for Life of Agony, Caputo acknowledges the upside to being alive: "Life pulls me out of the present moment with things and the monsters of the mind, but even if I would have had one day on this planet I would have been blessed."
– This story appears in the March 11, 2020, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters.