Review by Sheri Bicheno for MPM
Time for an injection of hardcore punk! And for the first time in what seems like forever, a mid-week show of that was right up my street.
Well noted that it’s not been since 2019 that the mighty (and cheeky) Agnostic Front have graced our shores.
Knowing many people that adore the fun and frantic shows of the New York veterans of Harcore, I bounced along to The Asylum in Birmingham to see the last UK leg of their ’GET LOUD!’ tour… which upon my arrival, was already BRIMFUL of people getting into Last Hope, Bulgaria’s ready and loud answer to hardcore punk.
Immediately, it’s mosh pit galore in here.
With blends of thrashing and rippling riffs, of vicious vocals and fast hitting beats, there’s no hanging around. Intro blasts out of nowhere and there we know exactly what we are in for…
However, these guys alternate their style with their hardcore elements – from the chugging and winding riffs of Peacemaker to the blasting and fast paced tempos of Someone Else and Reality Check, one of my favourite Last Hope songs, there are pouts of pure aggression and filthy vibes these guys deliver to get their message across.
After Reality Check’s breakdowns and brutal assault of blasting pedals, Last Hope hold out to the end for a nostalgic forget me not of F.P (Fuck Police!) leaving the Asylum with a heap of bouncing, hard hitting heaps of bodies flying everywhere.
Next, I cannot emphasise enough how in the heckload SpiritWorld are as brutal as they are surprising.
New masters of the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, adorned in Western influences of cowboy hats, shirts and jackets, the lights dim and an intro of Eddy Arnold’s “Cattle Call” echoes out from the stage before morphing into the pure ONSLAUGHT of recent single Moonlit Torture.
After seeing their set on the main stage at Bloodstock this year, witnessing their energy a bit more up close this time was pretty colossal.
Moonlit Torture first introduces pure evil riffing and Preston’s blast beats before Stu ‘s vocals munch through your entire soul. This is a pure example of SpiritWorld’s ability to form a battering ram of energy combining with some depths of winding solo’s and dragging bass tones that just ride your senses.
The Bringer Of Light though a short track, comes in as a shockwave of blasting energy, climbing riffs and talks of demonic possessions.
There’s a definite sense of concept in the delivery of much of SpiritWorld – Armageddon Honkytonk & Saloon and Godless display a murder infused country western vision which goes hand in hand with many Satanic references in their album Pagan Rhythms, released fully in 2021.
Mixing elements of thrash, hardcore and death metal, DeathWestern is certainly now a new found flavour of genre in the realms of extreme metal and I welcome it fully…
Hurling in with a recent new song taken from newly released album ‘Warhorse’, Black Motor is laced with earlier Motorhead and early Exploited infusions of punk and thrash, it’s fast and electric – as much of what Californian powerhouse Charger offer.
Their set is raging and showcases much of the debut album with outstanding offerings of Dig Your Own Grave, Devastator and Will To Survive – though I think that, being a huge fan of a bit of atmospheric infusions with my metal, I gotta say Dig Your Grave was a definite favourite of mine.
Space vibe synths start this track off on the studio version but the energy emanating from the stage with this intro live was intense. In the best way.
Matt Freeman, still through all the years of his craft, is one of the best performers in punk rock. Providing the ever change of mood to the tracks, his bass combined with his deep rasping vocals set a thumping pace which entwines with the frantic and skillful drumming of Jason Willer. Dig Your Own Grave and 2019 favoueite Crackdown blasts out of the stage and completely encapsulates the room. The mosh pit is mental!!
Jason seems to effortlessly power out his drumming and additional vocals – Victim is a hard, thumping pace fuelled smack in the face and his growling vocals match the energy of Matt’s. Though an older track, released in 2019, Victim is a track laced with political repulse and dirty riffs from Andrew McGee.
Enter… dimmed stage lights and red hues, another great Western theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly rings out from the stage and a huge cheer from the crowd erupts.
Vinnie Stigma wants carnage from Birmingham tonight. He paces the stage like a hungry (albeit bouncy) tiger with his guitar held high in the air.
“ARE YOU READY!?”
Yes, sir. We are.
A winding and energy fuelled riffage of intro AF Stomp erupts and Roger Miret demands a circle pit for the last UK leg of the tour before spiraling into the pounding of The Eliminator.
The energy here is insane. There are bodies flying everywhere, the sound is tight, yet chaos is loose!!
Launching into Dead To Me, the fast, obnoxious and dirty guitaring and backbeat drumming keep to the nostalgic vibe of Agnostic Front with a sonic crossover of thrash undertones. Old New York follows up with this, though the emotion in this track is quite clear. With references to missing the past version of New York in a more gritty characterised version than today.
It’s been noted before that this track was inspired by a movie called Taxi Driver that portrayed the rough side of society in New York.
The unhinged vibe and blast paced drumming from Danny Lamagna offer the vision with this lyrical offering:
“The greatest city of them all,
But it just don’t feel the same.
I miss the old New York.
The tallest buildings in the world,
But it just don’t look the same.
I miss the old New York…”
Friend or Foe is a crowd mover, only a few moments long but it’s brutal and shines into the more hardcore side of Agnostic Front.
Hammering guitars and that forever blasting of beats, Roger’s vocals bark at the audience and command a reaction. Fun tempos ring through and the pit is in full swing again which is just as well leading into favourite of the crowd Blind Justice.
Stigma addresses the crowd
‘Would you like to sing a song with me?”
Oh man, pirate-esque style Pauly The Dog is belted out and shows a comedic side to these guys. An anthem about Stigmas beer drinking dog is chanted to the rafters and for a moment, you’re joined!
Rounding off the show, Gotta Go is belted out into the crowd and everyone around me is mad for it. The energy here is amazing, Mike Gallo tones this track with low bass and creates an epic vibe with Craig Silverman’s lead.
Stigma is still bouncing around the stage, as I’m snapping away he spots me and sticks his tongue out and throws winks my way.
I love a band that can be real with their audience and have a bit of fun with them. It makes the experience way more intimate and close to home.
The pace is picked up to end the song off and then dedicated to the great Ramones, Agnostic Front launch into their own rendition of Blitzkrieg Bop.
Although the last track, that certainly was something to behold. The threshold of the crowd and the band melted into one giant wild ride and the whole place shook.
What a way to end a set!
Agnostic Front have been top of the board in creating hardcore/oi for just over 40 years and with no hesitation, tonight shows exactly why.
Photography by Tim Finch