The last few years have proven that, despite an increasingly advancing age, there’s still plenty of life left in New York hardcore’s earlier generations of bands. Particularly great albums from Madball and Sick Of It All immediately come to mind, but in general, with prevailing longevity of bands like this is enough to celebrate in its own right, especially given that their visions have largely stayed just as focused on a ground level as ever. That feels especially pertinent with Agnostic Front, often considered one of the founders of the NYHC sound who’ve stuck to their roots almost religiously since the beginning, and with frontman Roger Miret generally considered a legend in hardcore as a whole. As for their recent musical output, it’s gone through the same cycle of consistent rollouts as a lot of their peers and contemporaries, as in it’s generally sated fans without shifting too much focus away from earlier, classic material. That’s not necessarily a criticism – the same thing happened with both Madball and Sick Of It All on their last albums, too – but it does mean there’s a lowered expectation level for an album like Get Loud!, if only because it’s all too easy to predict exactly where Agnostic Front are going to go. They’re not a band prone to change, and the fact that a new album is near-guaranteed to reflect that can firmly cap some amount of excitement.
It’s not like that’s wrong either, especially when Get Loud! isn’t the late period firestorm in the same way that either of the aforementioned bands have delivered lately. Rather, it’s more the expected continuation of Agnostic Front’s ethos that remains as reliable as always, but with a few cracks beginning to show in the exterior that might show how they haven’t aged quite as well as others in their scene. It’s still a perfectly fine album that ticks all the necessary boxes to give this brand of kerb-stomping hardcore enough of an edge, but that’s kind of all it does, and some of the baked-in limitations of Agnostic Front mean that this doesn’t stand out quite as much as some others in its lane.
It’s not like any of that is really a crippling factor here though; Agnostic Front can still tap into rudimentary rage and power to pick up enough speed when necessary and bring a level of energy that’s still impressive for a band nearly forty years down the road. They’ve clearly not mellowed out given how tracks like Anti-Social and Snitches Get Stitches still feel vital and hard-hitting even below the two-minute mark thanks to the inherent power that NYHC and crossover thrash has, and when the album as a whole clocks in at a clean half-hour, it’s not as though there’s much in the way of wasted space here. Reliability does seem to be the operative term with the vast majority of Get Loud!, not only in presentation that has enough snarl and gallop to still keep hold of that energy, but also in writing that feels just as relevant in street-level socio-politics today on the title track and Conquer And Divide as it did in the ‘80s, peppered with the unashamed nostalgia of Spray Painted Walls and I Remember to keep those connections firm. On top of that, there’s still a grime within these songs that feels authentically underground, and given that that’s a lane that Agnostic Front have never really left since inception, there’s definitely authenticity here that can’t be denied.
But there’s also a limit to how far that goes, namely that all of that praise is much more relevant to Get Loud! as a whole as opposed to many individual moments. It’s always good to see the band lean into a meatier stomp instead of the more thrash-inspired hardcore flurries, but even then, it’s hard to pick what could be seen as a standout moment. It does all run together to be quite honest, and while the ride definitely has its thrills, it does lose marks for not really making the most of it in a way that some form of modulation can bring out. It also doesn’t help that Miret’s voice is a very acquired taste, with the spat-out enunciations topping off an already thick New York accent that, combined with vocal production that strangely places him halfway into the mix, can feel a lot thinner and less imposing or swaggering than it really should. It’s the closest this album gets to really missing the mark; on the whole production-wise, Get Loud! isn’t exactly innovating, but it’s solid enough in its chunky guitars and bass to make the vocal mixing come across as a noticeable dip.
But for pretty much the only people who are likely to pay any significant amount of attention to this album – i.e. the longtime Agnostic Front fans who just want more of the same and will be able to look past anything that could be seen as a ‘flaw’ from an outside perspective – Get Loud! is sure to suffice. After all, it’s another serviceably quick, potent hardcore album that does exactly what it needs to do in all the right capacity, and even if that’s not really a formula for real greatness, it’s enough to work on the whole and stop Agnostic Front from falling into legacy-band complacency. Even as it stands, this is an album that has more gone into it than bands of this vintage really need to do, and while that might sound like faint praise, the fact there’s something to praise in the first place is undeniably a good thing.
For fans of: Sick Of It All, Cro-Mags, Madball
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Get Loud!’ by Agnostic Front is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.