• Agnostic Front - The American Dream Died

    Released By: Nuclear Blast
    Released On: April 7, 2015
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Album:

    Talk about a near impossible task. How do you write a record review for a band so tenacious and significant as Agnostic Front? With thirty some-odd years in the business, over ten albums, switches in the lineups, variations and refinements in style, while still remaining hugely influential and arguably the premiere voice in the genre of New York Hardcore...well, let's just say that any product released will have some very large shoes to fill.

    Back in the early 80's, they brought NYHC to the masses with the fast and brutal, "United Blood" EP, following it up with the NYHC classic, "Victim In Pain". Though they caught a lot of flack for 1986's "Cause For Alarm", due largely to the "crossover" thrash sound, and allegedly racist lyrics...for the most part, the work or Carnivore's Peter Steele...Agnostic Front trudged on, gaining strength and more fans with "Liberty and Justice For..." and 1992's "One Voice". By the time they released the Live At CBGB album in '89, the name Agnostic Front had spread far and wide, enough to blow minds the world over. And then, at that first peak of their career...Agnostic Front, for some reason, decided to call it quits.

    I have to admit, I didn't pay much attention to Agnostic Front when they released 1998's "Riot, Riot Upstart". For whatever reason, I was into something else, and as a result, also missed the follow-up albums, "Dead Yuppies" and "Another Voice". The songs that I later heard from those albums didn't do much for me...after that first run of amazing records, where could they go? The answer was "Warriors", the 2007 album that put Agnostic Front back on the map for many. Roger Miret (vocals) and Vinnie Stigma (guitar) were still at the forefront, and bassist Mike Gallo was still holding down the low end, having joined the band in 2001, but the addition of Inhuman's Joseph James (lead guitar) and Steve Gallo (drums) kicked NYHC into high gear, giving the band an edge and a sound that can only be described as perfectly refined. Fans of the band's early recordings may have felt left in the cold by the insanely tight, heavy thrash, but for many, it represented a welcome evolution. Miret's trademark vocal delivery was still front and centre, and the NYHC spirit and themes were still present...this was still Agnostic Front, but amped up to 11. Tracks such as "Dead to Me" proved that the anger and hostility was there, while "For My Family" emphasized the bond and strength of the scene that you really only heard about from New York.

    "My Life My Way" (2011) followed in the same style (with drummer Steve Gallo replaced by Pokey Mo) with the band still tapping into the refined thrash vein of "Warriors", but also paying tribute to the New York sound that the band helped define in the 80's. "City Streets" started the album off, providing live audiences with yet another great sing-a-long. For many fans, Agnostic Front could do no wrong. And then, almost 20 years after they split up the first time, fans were surprised (and a little disappointed) that the band's lead guitarist Joseph James was leaving the band.

    Which brings us to 2015. Roger Miret is still on vocals. Stigma is still rocking his custom SG. Mike Gallo is still on bass. Pokey Mo is sitting behind the drum stool. And Boston Hardcore Legend Craig Silverman (Only Living Witness, Blood For Blood, Slapshot) is on lead guitar. The new album is "The American Dream Died". Fans like myself are wondering...is it going to be any good? Can Silverman fill Joseph James' shoes? Are they going to go off in another direction, or continue on the path they'd forged with Warriors and My Life My Way? Good news: The American Dream Died is a stellar album, and it is most definitely Agnostic Front through and through. 16 tracks, and 30 minutes, if you count the opening montage that runs around two minutes. It's the sound of an angry band, pissed off at the way things are being run. Furious with the people in charge. Defiant in their support of the underdog and downtrodden. And while a good chunk of it carries the thrash torch that they laid down on the last two albums, a number of tracks are like a polished tribute to the old days, more in line with the speed and duration of the material on Victim in Pain.

    The appropriately named "Intro" gives us a taste of things to come...with the backing of an air raid siren and a bit of instrumentation, various samples throw out words like "Homeless", "Criminal Corruption", and "Wire Taps", all fitting in with AF's vision of the American Dream gone bad. Following the Intro, the album segues seamlessly into the title track "The American Dream Died". Exhibiting the thrash sound of the refined Agnostic Front, Pokey Mo's double-speed kick drum moves the band along at a breakneck pace, while Roger spits out lyrics about corporations, nuclear contamination, the military...and the exploitation of natural resources? To be sure, this is a more evolved band.

    Before we have a chance to get too in-depth with themes, though, the short stab of "Police Violence", with its United Blood-era speed, delivers on straight fury with the chorus-ending "Fuck The Police!", slowing down to make it clear that cops shouldn't be above the law, that they shouldn't be able to shoot and tase people for no reason, and that the guilty ones should be thrown in jail. It's not rocket science, but it's effective. "Only In America" returns to that later-era sound again to speak of America's mistreatment of veterans..."They Fought For Freedom, But Now They're Treated Just Like Slaves".

    "Test of Time", "We Walk The Line", and "Never Walk Alone" exhibit the same themes (at least I think they do. Lyrics ARE open to interpretation, and I'd be lying if I said that I caught every bit of Roger's vocals) of staying true to yourself and moving forward, with the latter also serving as an ode to hardcore; "This is our Life, our Scene, our Passion!" is sure to get a good audience singalong going, especially with all of the mid-tempo "Hey!"s and "Whoa-Oh-Oh!"s. contained within. But while "Never Walk Alone" (with its simple but powerful bass line) and "Test of Time" (with a screaming intro metal solo) are both strong songs, "We Walk the Line" is the one song on the album that fails to inspire. With it's slow, trudgy tempo, and endlessly repeated "We walk the line!", it gets boring quickly.

    "Enough is Enough" and "I Can't Relate" swing the album back into high gear, with the former sounding like a modern-day "Traitor" before the heading into what is the centerpiece of the album, "Old New York". Starting off with a sample from Taxi Driver 'sTravis Bickle, the song heads into video single territory (oddly enough, AF chose "Police Violence" for the leading single), with up-tempo tom fills and a solid backing bass, before the guitar and vocals kick in hard. "New York City...the money sucked it dry"; a harsh indictment of the city that the band have pledged allegiance to so many times before. But NYC isn't the same, and Roger wants to know where the graffiti and the gangs and dealers are, and why the Bowery slums have been turned into condos. With a chorus of "The greatest City of them all, but it just don't feel the same...I miss the old New York", the track is sure to join "For My Family" and "Gotta Go" as the catchiest of the band's songs.

    It's a tough act to follow, but the sequencing of the album thus far is done well. "Social Justice" and "Reasonable Doubt" kick into thrash mode again, the former featuring an insane metal-like guitar break that may be the musical equivalent of an adrenalin blast. "No War Fuck You" is another nod to the early days, with a vocal delivery that's almost indecipherable...but if you couldn't figure out what the song is about by the title, skip back to "Police Violence" for a crash course in Obvious.

    The next two tracks, "Attack! "and "A Wise Man" are good enough tracks, but oddly placed on the album. As they stand, they're not particularly memorable, which is unfortunate. The final track, "Just Like Yesterday" is a decent tribute to hardcore, with mentions of the glory days and CBGB, switching between mid-tempo and galloping hardcore rhythm. It's a good song to end on; despite the state of America that Agnostic Front rallies against, hardcore is still worldwide; a potential change agent to inform, to right the wrongs and get things back on track.

    Sound and production-wise, "The American Dream Died" is right where it should be. With Madball's Freddy Cricien producing, and Paul Miner (Terror, H20) at the board, it's what one would expect, and in line with that refined sound we've come to expect from the band.

    The Final Word:

    Although I had a few doubts going in to "The American Dream Died", it's great to hear that they were largely unfounded. By and large, this is the same Agnostic Front that so many of us love, and aside from a couple of just-okay tracks, this album is a solid addition to the AF discography, and most definitely worth adding to your collection. Recommended.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      About 8 years ago, I saw Agnostic Front in London, Ontario. We ended up hanging after the show and drinking some beers with Vinnie Stigma, which then led to me helping them load their gear. They invited me out for breakfast with them, which took place at an all night diner at about 3 a.m. I ended up sitting at a table with Vinnie and Joseph James, which was cool. Joe and I talked about movies, , and then the food came.

      Vinnie ordered two Labatt 50's, a burger, and poutine. Then he told me that if I ever went to New Yowk, I needed to come to Brooklyn and order some Disco Fries, which were basically the same. He told me that he loved food, and then talked about food that he liked for about 20 minutes.

      Then he gave me some inside entertainment information.

      "Hey, I'm gettin a new show."
      "Oh yeah? What's it about?"
      "It's about cookin. I'm gonna do a show where there's cookin"
      "A cooking show? That's cool. What's it going to be called?"

      "Cookin' Wit' Hawdcoah."

      Still cracks me up to this day.