I’m getting old! Is this really Agnostic Front’s eleventh album in some thirty years of making music? How did that amount of time pass and how do they still manage to sound so thoroughly pissed off? According to vocalist Roger Miret: “Myself and the band has never felt so confident and passionate about a release,” and it shows. A full-tilt release, Agnostic Front still sound thrillingly close to the bone with their aggressive, metallic-tipped brand of punk and, over sixteen tracks, Agnostic Front demonstrate that they’re as vital and relevant as ever in today’s uncertain times.
Opening with ‘intro’, a dark, feedback-laden instrumental shot-through with snatches of news and dialogue, the band set the scene perfectly before launching headfirst into the title-track. Bass led and with churning, heavily distorted guitars, this is old-school American hardcore that operates in the same lyrical territory as Obituary and which has all the more power for the incisive social commentary Roger Miret indulges. Given recent events in America, ‘police violence’ particularly resonates and the battle-cry of ‘fuck the police’ takes on new meaning at a time when a political battle is raging between the oppressed and the oppressors. Passing by at lightning speed, blink and you’ll end up in the gang-chant blast of ‘only in America’, a song that harks back to the early days of Suicidal Tendencies only for ‘test of time’ to wrong foot the listener and head into darker, more metallic territory with some blistering solo work to match. A highlight of the album, it shows that Agnostic Front are happy to mix it up musically and more than have the skills to pull it off. Another highlight is the blistering ‘we walk the line’ which takes Agnostic Front’s typically gritty vocals and sets them to a pulverizing metal riff that positively shimmers with menace. The album’s longest song, ‘never walk alone’ is a full on punk anthem with terrace chants and a juddering bass line delivered with low-slung poise and a perma-sneer. With a chorus custom built to appeal to long-time fans – “this is our life, this is our scene, this is our passion”– ‘never walk alone’ is Agnostic front at their most brutally memorable and it’s hard to imagine any heavy music fan not connecting with the simple yet powerful message contained within. In contrast ‘enough is enough’ is a primal cry of frustration delivered in under a minute whilst its similarly short follow-up ‘I can’t relate’ is no less furiously articulate. It’s music to stimulate the mosh pit, but it’s also an effective anthem of revolution and Agnostic Front never seem any less enthralling than the sex pistols who, arguably, pioneered the approach of matching an intelligent firebrand singer to savage, thuggish racket.
Opening with a chilling sample from Taxi Driver, ‘old New York’ pines for a city long lost to the tattooed punks of the eighties and then the tub-thumping ‘social justice’ body slams the listener with a brutal groove and spit-soaked vocals. ‘Reasonable doubt’ is fast and vicious, but not nearly so much as the sub-forty second blast ‘no war fuck you’, which pairs searing, white-hot rage with the most primitive of social messages. ‘Attack!’ sees the album heading toward its conclusion with grit and determination and then ‘A wise man’ once again sees Agnostic front head off into metal territory with sludgy tiffs and classic-metal infused solos doing more to recall Biohazard than the Clash. The album closes with the straight up punk of ‘just like yesterday’ which leaves the listener with one last gang chant maelstrom before the disc spins to a finish.
What do you want from a good punk album? Gang vocals – check; simple, yet brutal riffs – check; vocals with social relevance and real bite – check; blisteringly short snatches of white-hot rage – check; Yep, with Agnostic front it’s all here alongside some occasional snatches of metallic brilliance and a level of musicianship that persists in surprising. In short, Agnostic Front have delivered everything their legendary name promises and more with ‘the American Dream died’, an album that does more to express the immense dissatisfaction that seems to be swelling in the American underground than any other release I’ve heard in the last decade. Brutal, uncompromising and always ahead of the curve, ‘The American Dream died’ is a punk tour-de-force that belongs in the collection of anyone who fosters rebellion in their heart.