Released: 2008, Nuclear Blast America
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Frankly stated, I don’t like hardcore or any of its poser-metal offspring. Not at all. Having already endured several listens of an abysmal deathcore band’s CD earlier this month, I was already apprehensive towards Agnostic Front’s WARRIORS before I’d given it a single spin. The cover art featuring a stereotypical hardcore dude with a bloody Spartan tattoo springing from his back really didn’t help. “Here’s sure to be another bland, unoriginal CD with annoying vocals, nondescript sludgy riffs, wanna-be metal drums, and those freaking BREAKDOWNS for the aggro slam dance kids,” I said to myself. Preparing for the worst, I gritted my teeth and popped in the CD…
To my immediate surprise, I really liked the thrashy, old-school metal riff on opening track “Addiction.” It didn’t sound at all like a hardcore riff, instead reminding me of something from the Bay Area thrash glory days. Awaiting the inevitable breakdown and the subsequent mediocrity that was sure to follow, I found myself shocked – there was none. WARRIORS doesn’t contain a single breakdown like you’d expect from a generic mallcore band. Most songs have an underlying punk feel, with headbanging thrash riffs on top of occasional double bass from drummer Steve Gallo. There’s even some pretty zesty guitar solos, sometimes shredding sometimes bluesy. Had I done my research before so harshly judging them, I would have learned that Agnostic Front is usually described as a “crossover” band between thrash and hardcore, and that they’ve been doing this sort of thing without compromise for 25 years.
My main complaint with WARRIORS is Roger Miret’s vocals. He thankfully doesn’t use a mallcore scream-type vocal like I was expecting, but instead uses an abrupt, monotone yell/bark heavily colored by some strain of a slurred New York accent. Gang shouts heavily populate choruses to add some flavor and distinction, but otherwise the only “sung” vocal is on the almost-heartfelt track “For My Family.” As it happens, Miret cannot properly “sing” with much talent either, so I’ll take his beagle-with-paralyzed-mouth-muscles yelp instead. Outro track “All These Years” features a different vocalist and a speedier feel, and the change is much appreciated. Overall, the lyrical subject matter isn’t very exciting, with common themes of being hardcore for life, staying true to hardcore, and other subjects pertinent to the hardcore lifestyle that us layfolk have no clue about or interest in. That being said, this is a record written for Agnostic Front’s fans and not for some suit in Los Angeles, and that always wins points with me.
Mediocre vocals aside, WARRIORS is a unexpectedly vicious piece of thrash metal/punk rock that has consistently been stuck in my head since my first listen. If this is what old-school hardcore is supposed to sound like, then I’ve been missing out on a window to the glory days of 80’s thrash. Longtime fans of Agnostic Front should enjoy themselves, and regular metalheads looking for something off the beaten path may find something of value as well.