I know and respect AGNOSTIC FRONT as icons and well-established, invaluable pioneers of the hardcore punk/crossover genre. The NYC-based band has been a major influence on the entire scene, and I sometimes wonder what would have happened to genres like crossover thrash and hardcore without them. What direction would bands like HATEBREED, ANTI-FLAG, SICK OF IT ALL, etc. have taken without them? Can you believe it has been 35 years since they released “Victim In Pain?” Should I feel old now?? In any case, I was looking forward to reviewing their twelfth (!) album, fittingly baptized “Get Loud!”
The cover, which is as loud and in your face as the album itself, brings back art from Sean Taggart (WHIPLASH), which features the same characters as the artwork for the influential record “Cause for Alarm” (1986). His artwork is sophisticatedly twisted and was a revolution back in the old days of NYHC when a lot of bands merely scribbled a badly drawn skull on their album cover and called it a day. I think it’s very fitting for the band to collaborate with an artist that, just like them, witnessed the transformations of the hardcore scene over the years.
AGNOSTIC FRONT has experimented with many different styles, both delighting and upsetting their fan base along the way, but the godfathers of hardcore have consistently dropped quality releases. Fans keep flocking to packed concerts, and they still embody the same ideals and vision as they did when they emerged as a controversial symbol of the Lower East Side violent, drug-ridden streets. The band has quite the history of member changes as well, but Vinnie Stigma and Roger Miret have leveled up to legendary status. The connection between them is unbreakable, making for explosive, emotional stage chemistry. They have paved the way for so many others, both by inspiring and challenging them.
So, did they drop another bomb with this release? “Spray Painted Walls” indeed opens with a fittingly loud bang: it’s the speedy riffs and tempo shifts we know and love. I am catapulted back in time and seem to find myself in the legendary CBGB club in New York, moshing to the signature sound that influenced a generation. “Divide and Conquer” is another such traditional NY hardcore gem. Freddy Cricien from MADBALL joins in on “I Remember”, an ode to the band’s early days, a history of mayhem and mischief. This is the one that will get everyone shouting along, and I bet it will become yet another nostalgic fan favourite. They have become a true family, welcoming their fans into their hardcore home. This same passion and love for the music they make are present throughout the entire album, dripping off every headphone shattering riff.
The short, powerful “Af Stomp” is an instrumental intermezzo to warm you up for the record’s second half, kicking off with “Urban Decay”, which is about as straightforwardly punk as it gets. “Snitches Get Stitches” takes off again full throttle, and you better get the f*ck up to keep up. The signature gang chorus makes you feel like shouting and stomping along like a rabid dog. Oh, and don’t slow down just yet, because the epic “In My Blood” features some of the most delicious riffage in “Get Loud!“. To sum things up for you, this is a fast-paced, steamroller of a record, with 14 tracks lasting a mere 30 minutes. That said, 30 minutes is all you will need to get in the zone, and if your room isn’t completely trashed by the end of it, I assume you are one of the lucky ones. That’s how aggressive “Get Loud!” is.
On to the lyrical context, which is exactly what we are used to, centered on society’s most pressing issues, such as everything that’s wrong with the establishment, harsh criticism of the government, and mental illness. The band has always been known for giving a voice to those unheard and doing it without beating around the bush. One of my personal favourites, earlier mentioned “Conquer and Divide”, deals with topics of the way society encourages people to lie and cheat, basically being assholes to each other. The message is still there, loud and clear, angrier than ever, asking us to step up and do our part to change the world in any way we can. I for one can definitely get behind that.
In all sincerity, this being their twelfth album, AGNOSTIC FRONT still delivers the same top quality they did 35 years ago. After all this time, their energy never falters and is still blazingly contagious. Don’t go expecting elaborate songwriting and mind-blowing style experiments, because that is not what hardcore has ever been about, and will ever turn into. It’s a rage channeling session that leaves nothing to the listener’s interpretation. In my opinion, the band has always stayed true to themselves, and never relinquished their status as one of the main pillars of the hardcore scene. They defend it up to this very day, coming in loud and proud. AGNOSTIC FRONT will continue to go down in history as true hardcore legends, and this latest release simply solidifies that rightful place in the hall of fame.
- Spray Painted Walls
- Get Loud!
- Conquer and Divide
- I Remember
- Dead Silence
- Af Stomp
- Urban Decay
- Snitches Get Stitches
- In My Blood
- Pull the Trigger
Vinnie Stigma – Guitars
Roger Miret – Vocals
Mike Gallo – Bass, Backing Vocals
Pokey Mo – Drums
Craig Silverman – Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals