Sound — 7
Agnostic Front formed in 1980 as a NYC punk band, with contemporaries such as the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. While the band initially included skinheads in the band membership, and had recurring themes in the lyrics to the skinhead political and social ideology, the band evolved over time. After the band's last "hiatus" the membership has been very rocky, with the current membership containing only 2 of the "original" members: Vinnie Stigma on guitar and Roger Miret on vocals. The other positions are filled by Mike Gallow (bass, 2001), Pokey Mo (drums, 2009), and Craig Silverman (guitar, 2014). The band entered the studio and completed the album in an intense collection of sessions.
Agnostic Front's "The American Dream Died" is the band's eleventh studio album, and is easily one of the band's stronger releases in recent years. While staying primarily focused on their classic thrash crossover/ hardcore punk sound, there are a few modern touches that make this sound like a modern album, however, the album remains tasteful. There are 16 tracks on the album with a total runtime of 27 minutes, which fits right in to the context of hardcore punk rock. Several songs on the album are less than 1 minute long, and the longest song is still under 3 minutes.
The album opens with the track, "Intro," which helps to set the stage for the rest of the album, with audio samples of people talking about social injustices occurring in the United States. The title track, "The American Dream Died" is the second track on the album, and it opens up with a strong punk bassline and Roger Miret's vocals coming in pretty close behind (and it reminded me of how odd Miret's vocals are). "Police Violence" opens up with the kind of frenetic and chaotic energy that made Agnostic Front, Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies famous in the early days. "Only in America" is an overtly political song dealing with the erosion of rights in the United States. "Test of Time" opens up with a crazy little guitar solo, and maintains a pretty high level of energy. "We Walk the Line" deals with living your life your way instead of going with the flow, though it reminds me a little bit of a few different Bad Religion songs. "Never Walk Alone" explores similar territory as "We Walk the Line," but this one focused on the importance of finding like-minded individuals to roll with. "Enough Is Enough" has my favorite bass line and guitar part from any track on the album. "I Can't Relate" is a quick little track, not a lot to say about this one. "Old New York" opens up with some audio samples and is the first time in a long time that Agnostic Front lyrics have sounded like skinhead rhetoric to me, though there was nothing openly racist. The song turned into a nostalgic trip about how they miss the "old" NYC. "Social Justice" has a screamed chorus "you got what you deserved." "Reasonable Doubt" clocks in at just over a minute, and has some of the more interesting riffing from the album, and has a tempo change where it gets SLOWER for a bit, so that is something that stands out. "No War F--k You" is just a short little anti-war song. "Attack!" is just a straightforward punk song, but with a few short "fills" on guitar. "A Wise Man" has an intro that definitely has some of the strongest 'thrash crossover' sounds going on from the album. The album closes out with "Just Like Yesterday" which opens up with the line "death before dishonor," and has a very rock 'n' roll style guitar solo. The album is proof that Agnostic Front is still authentic, for better or for worse.
Lyrics — 6
Roger Miret has been providing vocals for the band since 1982, and he has one of those voices you either hate or love. I flip flop on how I feel from one moment to the next. The rest of the band provides group "gang vocals," mostly, when background vocals are needed. I went back and forth on Roger's vocals throughout the album, and I honestly can't say how I feel about them. Sometimes his vocals grate on my nerves, but sometimes I appreciate the way that his vocals grate on my nerves, if that makes sense. Knowing the band's skinhead origins it is hard to gauge the lyrics because I keep putting the lyrics into the context of the skinhead context and it sours them for me. Without the skinhead twist on the lyrics, then they're pretty intense and I can get behind them as they point out social injustice and other problems in society.
Overall Impression — 7
What the entire album has going for it is aggression, classic hardcore sound and attitude, and worthwhile subject matter for song lyrics. There are a few moments where the music clearly gets into the realm of thrash crossover, and it sounds like it stepped right out of the '80s hardcore scene but with better production. It was definitely a worthwhile listen, and made me go dig up some old Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies albums after I finished listening to it.