Released: 2015, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Not exactly sure where the line between “angry young man” and “cranky old bastard” in hardcore is drawn, but as they hit 50 Agnostic Front mainmen Roger Miret and Vinnie Stigma definitely aren’t kids anymore. That doesn’t necessarily make them any less angry than they have been over 30-some on-and-off years with Agnostic, but the band’s 11th album does find them at times pining for the old days or offering advice to their younger protogés.
On “Old New York” Miret laments the gentrification of The Big Apple, preferring a time before “the money sucked it dry” of personality, when you couldn't see out the subway windows because of the graffiti, there was “violence in the streets” in Times Square and the Lower East Side and the Bowery wasn't studded with boutiques. “Some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets,” Robert DeNiro offers as the song opens with a monologue by his “Taxi Driver” character Travis Bickle from a time when New York was a veritable cesspool. Ironically, that “rain” ended up being Wall Street yuppie scum. Careful what you wish for.
“Test of Time” “Never Walk Alone” and “Just Like Yesterday” speak in terms of the hardcore scene itself. “Test,” which boasts a strikingly speed metal opening, serves almost as a primer for hardcore up-and-comers from wily veterans who have “stood the test of time.” Keep moving forward, Miret implores, “live life, live fast” and don't get left behind. The fantastically hooky “Walk” sees hardcore as something still “worth fighting for.” With its buoyant gang sung “This is our life, this our scene” chorus it's hard to argue otherwise. The closing track “Yesterday” looks back fondly on 30 years of said hardcore. “This is us until we die,” Miret declares. Believe it.
On the other side of the coin, there's still plenty of spleen left for Agnostic to vent. “No War Fuck You,” “Police Violence” and “Social Justice” need no further explanation. The title track speaks to the timeless topic of the military-industrial complex run amok, while “Reasonable Doubt” aims to rally the “power of the people” against that very thing. “Only In America” effectively excoriates the mistreatment of the injured or stress-disordered veterans of our never-ending “war on terror.”
The American Dream Died is Agnostic's most emphatic and aggressive album perhaps since their 2004 Nuclear Blast debut Another Voice. Agnostic is one hardcore band that long has packed enough of a wallop to cross over to a metal audience, and there is a pronounced metallic punch throughout Dream's 16 swaggering songs.
Stigma and Craig Silverman dole out bruising riffs by the truckload here and drummer Pokey Mo belies his name by kicking in some occasional double bass rolls. Micro-bursty tracks like the 40-some second “Enough Is Enough” and “I Can't Relate” even offer a hint of grindcore. And since the band continue to wave the old school banner, there's none of the “metalcore” trappings/annoyances the kids these days can't seem to get enough. Believe me, you won't miss 'em.