Style: Hardcore Punk
Release Date: 8 Nov 2019
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I learned long ago just how differently punk was seen in the US to the UK, a difference that's only got more obvious with the rise of hardcore in the US and its influence on what became nu metal and metalcore. The American punk I like isn't Green Day or the Offspring, but older bands like the MC5 and the Stooges, running through to the New York Dolls and the Ramones. The hardcore punk I like revolves around the bands who created crossover, such as the Cro-Mags, D.R.I. and the Crumbsuckers. After that era, I found grindcore and the slow stuff just didn't cut it any more.
That's why I'm happy to finally break my hardcore punk review cherry here at Apocalypse Later with Agnostic Front. I remember buying their second album, Cause for Alarm, back in 1987 or so, as a young thrash fan eager to explore the genre's roots. The songs were co-written with people like Pete Steele, who I knew then from the thrash band Carnivore rather than Type O Negative. In turn, members of Agnostic Front guested on thrash band Whiplash's debut album, Power and Pain, which is still a favourite of mine.
Get Loud!, which I believe is the band's twelfth studio album, isn't a mile away from what I remember from back then. It's short at just a whisper over half an hour but there are no less than fourteen songs. The half dozen under two minutes tend to be speed metal blitzkriegs. The, erm, longer songs, only one of which makes it past the three minute mark, are slower and moshier and are driven by punk bounce. It has to be said that the first mosh pits were at hardcore punk gigs, even if many of us gloss over that.
Unsurprisingly, I prefer the faster crossover material, but I'm digging the punkier songs too. While I attended a lot less hardcore gigs way back in the day, I felt some of the nostalgia in the lyrics of I Remember. It really was a brotherhood, even in England, where I was a metal interloper for a while. As long as I had a Motörhead logo visible somewhere on my person, it was OK because it meant acceptance. The pits back then were alive and we dived like crazy people.
Even while I enjoyed faster songs like Anti-Social (no, not the Trust track that Anthrax covered), mosh songs like the instrumental AF Stomp and up beat punk songs like the title track, I wondered at how Roger Miret's voice would appear to modern audiences. It's close to what I remember from back then and it works fine for me, but it's nowhere near the style that people tend to be used to nowadays, where hardcore vocals are vicious shouting assaults. Miret is somewhere between clean punk and hardcore shouts, with a little accent I don't remember, but he's easily nearer the former than the latter.
But hey, I've reviewed a lot of albums this year that are throwbacks to the eighties. Why should that just be a trend for heavy metal bands? Why should the punks opt out of that nostalgia, especially if they happen to be a band like Agnostic Front who helped create a surprising amount of what we might take for granted today? Without the New York punk scene, Anthrax would sound very different indeed.
The downside here isn't that its old school, it's that it's happy to be safe and relatively generic. Every one of the fourteen song titles sounds like it must be on a dozen different hardcore albums, from Isolated to Attention to Pull the Trigger. The music's good and the lyrics are good too but it's 2019 and there's so much obvious opportunity for Agnostic Front to, as they say, rage against the machine. They just don't seem to want to. I wonder why.