If Seinfeld gave previously
unexposed American audiences their most unflinching glimpse at neurotic, Upper West Side-of-Manhattan minutiae, bands like
Agnostic Front have been tour guides to a certain aspect of downtown NYC
subculture for almost 30 years. And as with viewers of Seinfeld, plenty of listeners to an album like My Life, My Way probably aren’t sure just how literal to take what
they’re hearing, but are nevertheless enthralled. Which, after three decades of
exploring relatively similar styles and themes, is quite an accomplishment for singer
Roger Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma, the enduring front line for these New York hardcore icons.
As on 2007’s triumphant Warriors
– “For My Family” was an all-time high
point for the band, alongside ‘80s classics like their
cover of Iron Cross’ “Crucified” – Miret’s half-brother (and Madball vocalist)
Freddy Cricien handles production duties, and keeps things free of any excess
filtration. My Life is bullet-train thrash-core
at its most precise and guttural, with Stigma, guitarist Joseph James, bassist
Mike Gallo and drummer Pokey Mo ripping open circle-pit anthems like the brutal
Both Cricien and the album’s players deserve credit for each
track’s seamless tempo changes, as Miret dedicates song after song to his
blue-collar philosophies of brotherhood, hardcore, hard-work and self-belief.
And given that NYHC once spawned an outbreak of self-righteous Krishna bands ostensibly over-intellectualizing the same
messages, Miret’s plain-spoken uplift has a vigorous authenticity.
There are some cringe-y moments, particularly the overly
generic sentiments in empowerment screed “Self-Pride.” Still, there are also
unexpected diversions, most notably “A Mi Manera,” on which Miret sings in
fluent Spanish without missing a double-time beat. The breakdown two-thirds
through “Until the Day I Die” is worth the price of admission alone, and there
are many more such moments of equal power.
Agnostic Front, and My
Life, My Way, don’t exist at this point to convert those not in their
extended brotherhood, or as cultural liaisons to baffled outsiders. But facts
are, no East Coast hardcore band was more pioneering for the scene’s
sea-changing crossover with metal 25 years ago. And as of 2011, they’re only
sounding bigger and more on their game, and speak and play from the heart. Not
that there’s anything wrong with that.
the Day I Die,” “That’s Life” KENNY HERZOG