ANTI-FLAG American Fall gets 8.5/10

Anti-Flag
American Fall
Spinefarm Records

8.5/10

At a time when the world needs a voice more than ever, who better to raise theirs than Anti-Flag. With the release of studio album 10, American Fall, the Pennsylvanian quartet are back at what they do best, bringing issues front and centre, and tearing those responsible to shreds in the process. They’re at war, war with everything wrong with society and the world, things that shouldn’t be issues in the 21st century, but somehow still are.

Co-produced with Good Charlotte’s Benji Madden (don’t hold it against them), Anti-Flag’s in their element, raging at the current unfair, unequal and ugly world we live in, yet have still produced something enjoyable to listen to. American Fall stands as a call to arms and call for action, to remind listeners to unite, to question everything and everyone.

They’re politically driven, loaded with angst, anger and disgust, more so now than ever before. The razor-sharp angsty lyrics, shared by frontman Justin Sane and bassist Chris ‘Chris#2’ Baker, slay the issues at hand, they’re simple but effective, blunt and honest. The instrumentals are on par with Sane and the Chris’ (Chris#2 and Chris Head) slaying guitar and bass across tracks to form some solid rebellious riffs, while drummer Pat Thetic hammers the kit behind them.

Album opener, American Attraction, proves they’re as angry and pissed off as ever, but let’s face it, can you blame them. If President Trump (that still sounds ridiculous saying it aloud) has done anything during his time in power, it’s provide bands like Anti-Flag an endless munitions supply. Maybe, in true Trump form, ‘the greatest, the greatest ever, greatest there ever was’. Seriously though, this is someone who tweeted “Its freezing and snowing in New York—we need global warming!” back in 2012, really! American Attraction is more rocky sounding but still holds true to Anti-Flag roots, with some gnarly distorted vocals in there, overall, a good introduction to the album and a powerful wake up call.

When Anti-Flag hits, they hit hard, and their power is proven in tracks like The Criminals, When the Wall Falls and Racists. They’re Anti-Flag through and through, and likely album favourites for many. Sharp, savage lyrics, blazing guitar riffs and thumping baseline form a melodic tune that, not only satisfies the inner punk, but also gives you something to ponder after tracks end.

Album highlight, When the Wall Falls, with its explosive baseline, gets you right into the thick of it, and the Hammond Organ gives it a sick ska twist, slightly different to their usual sound but it works well. Those ghoulish punk vocals provided by Chris#2, here and in I Cane. I Saw. I Believed., are absolutely brilliant. You’ll be singing along to the catchy chorus before songs end, and replaying it so you can crack the verses too.

Hearing Trouble Follows Me and Finish What We Started, I instantly thought Rancid, with that old school punk vibe, strong guitars and slightly reduced bass, topped with dominating vocals, a welcome break from politically dominated subject matter of the album too. Both give off a pop-punk vibe, but just like ska infused When the Wall Falls, they pull it off nicely. Trouble Follows Me, apparently a loose homage to anarchist and political activist, Emma Goldman, instils a moshers delight live.

Equally mosh inducing, Liar, thrashes furiously for its nearing 2-minute length, it’s short and fast, but full of energy, easily one of the most intense songs of the album. Crammed with shredding guitar riffs and a ripper bassline throughout, with a neat solo towards track end. Similarly, Rage Against the Machine-esque, Digital Blackout, is an aggressive track that touches on the issue of warfare trauma on drone operators.

Album stomper, Racists, the band’s response to the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally (released the day after actually), is a direct to jugular attack on the forces of racial discrimination, the subtle, and not so subtle. A message driven track, its sole purpose of shedding light on the issue of racism, with ferocious but extremely catchy lyrics. One of those songs that will probably annoy a few people, but hey, if so, they might just be the cause of the problem.

Closing track, Casualty, is another uplifting song, dedicated to the outcasts, pariahs or scapegoats, left feeling marginalised or polarised by the normalisation of bigotry. A mellower tone, with upbeat guitar riffs and drumming that result in a nice easy listening track. The perfect ending to a politically-charged Anti-Flag riot.

Anti-Flag have produced the goods once again with American Fall, possibly Anti-Flag at their best, and a must for any punk rockers or political activists out there. Despite, at times, depressing politically driven lyrics, American Fall is still upbeat enough that you can forget about that shit and just enjoy the feel-good punk rock vibe. It’s loaded with catchy, radio-friendly songs that would not sound out of place on mainstream radio.

Anti-Flag are fighting a war, not with weapons or violence, but with music, music that, upon listening, will affect the mindset of anyone who tunes in. They are currently, without a doubt, one of the most underrated bands around. Punk or not, get listening to the music; listen to the lyrics; listen to the message.

RYAN ELLIS

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