Agnostic Front are, undeniably, one of the most prolific and influential Hardcore/Punk groups to come out of New York. In recent years, the group's sound started to cater more towards the traditional Hardcore approach, which wasn't really a bad thing at all. Countless well received releases later, including a total of ten full-length albums, we find the group returning to their incredibly pissed off and politically-charged roots once more with The American Dream Died, a suiting title given everything going on in the United States lately. But is this new entry a genuine call to arms, or is it a mild proclamation of disgust you can easily sweep under the rug?

In a way, The American Dream Has Died is a mixture of both. While Agnostic Front hasn't forsaken the sound that made them a household name in recent years, there's no denying they break out of those common expectations in a way fuelled by anger right after the dark, government-out-of-control "Intro" that portrays a nation in ruins. This bleeds into the title track, which seems to take aim at large corporations and their influence that keeps the every day working man down and unable to achieve his/her own American dream. It's a tight performance with plenty of two-steps behind a somewhat bulky mid-range distortion that manages to capture the band's generally fed up nature pretty well.

There's also the somewhat Grindcore touched "Police Violence", a shot at the recent white-on-black murders making front page news in America today. It's a fast paced assault that stands on par with the hostility of N.W.A.'s "Fuck Da Police" or Body Count's "Cop Killer". "Social Justice" starts off with an ominous tone that plays up the theme of street justice, or at least what seems to be. The main verses show a good deal of technicality in the guitars, but the beefy chorus throws some held notes your way, relying largely on the bass and drums, both of which really step up to make that segment all the more tense and fulfilling. Meanwhile there's "Enough is Enough", a short mixture of furious, explosive grinding paces that sandwich a very brief Punk break dead center that, while catchy, doesn't really need to exist. This formula is literally swapped for "I Can't Relate" though, relying more on infectious riffs than blasting. Neither song is bad though, but the latter of the two manages to offer more substance overall in the less than fifty seconds it exists.

And then you have the traditional brotherhood-themed Hardcore performances. The mid-tempo "Never Walk Alone" has some infectious Punk riffs at work as well, but a hefty dose of groove that benefits from the somewhat deeper tuning, heavy bass guitar presence, and a plethora of gang chants. The only problem is that there isn't much of an authoritative tone to assert power behind the lyrics, instead coming off more as a light-hearted suggestion than a demand. The tighter hooks found in "Old New York", not to mentioned layered vocals in the chorus, offer up that additional hint of power the previous track was missing. This one also benefits largely from the fantastic drumming that immediately grabs the listener's attention, especially in the bridges where a little extra technicality really helps keep the song moving along smoothly. Of course, The American Dream Has Died ends on a truly uplifting note with the Punk heavy "Just Like Yesterday", a fond look back in time with the emotional impact on par with groups like The Dropkick Murphys thanks to the melodic tendencies, emotional vocals, and rich chants when the music is at its most powerful.

Aside some of the brotherhood/death before dishonor laced Hardcore tracks lacking the authority needed to really drive the point the lyrics are making home, the other issue winds up being how crisp this release sounds. The distortions on the guitars don't always have the same bite as the faster, heavier cuts do, and even the vocals wind up a bit weak at times. The American Dream Has Died definitely takes a few spins to get familiar with the output verses obvious intent behind the music, often failing to convey the necessary emotions behind the messages.

But, all that aside, this new full-length shows Agnostic Front channelling that anger that forged the group's existence in the first place, and it's an unexpected delight, even if it does try to cram too much. Much like their first few albums, The American Dream Has Died stands as one of the band's most important albums, largely because it comes at a time where race, big brother, and big corporation are all reaching too far into our every day lives in their present out-of-control state. From the burdening audio samples of the "Intro", right down the hopeful "Just Like Yesterday" that can put you in tears, fans of all walks of life will find plenty worth coming back for.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.