Back in the heyday of the late 90’s and early 00’s, American Nightmare were the most important band in hardcore. Wielding a perfect combination of the crushing aggressive Boston hardcore sound, with the kind of lyrics and melody you’d find on your favorite Smiths record. Following a pair of incendiary EP’s, coupled with two of the most important hardcore records of the time and a name to change (the band changed their name to Give up the Ghost due to a lawsuit), American Nightmare sadly broke up due to internal issues, at a time when they were seemingly at the top of the game & popularity.
Fast forward to 2017, six years after the band announced and played the first of their reunion shows, and American Nightmare have finally released their long awaited, heavily rumored, third record. What follows across its twenty minute run time is a cultivation of everything you loved about American Nightmare the first time round. The in your face hardcore assault of their debut album Background Music, combined with the progressive punk’d out anthems of follow up album We’re Down Til We’re Underground.
Whilst reliving gracefully all these aspects that made American Nightmare so excellent the first time, the new record also has a more refined punk sound, rather than the all out aggression which can be found on their early works. On first impression this may come as a bit of a disappointment to die hard fans wanting a repeat of their earlier efforts, however the pay off is hugely rewarding if you stick it out.
Alongside its straight to the point hardcore anthems like ‘The World is Blue’ and ‘Lower Than Life’, the album throws some curve-balls throughout, such as the horror-punk misfits worship of ‘Gloom Forever’ or the post punk tinged ‘Colder Than Death’ (recalling vocalist Wes Eisold’s post AN project Cold Cave) The vocals and lyrics in particular still sound as desperate and pained as they did back in their heyday.
As much as the nostalgia takes hold of you, coupled with the slew of fantastic tracks this album is made up of (excluding the odd couple of filler tracks) you can’t help but have the niggling thoughts sat at the back of your head, saying as a collective piece, this just doesn’t quite match up to their stunning early material. In some ways that’s correct, how could anyone follow such an incendiary collection of tracks? However in another way, this is our gain.
What we have here is a more mature American Nightmare. Retaining all the parts we loved about them, whilst showing artistic progression. Something a lot of hardcore bands producing comeback albums struggle to execute with finesse. American Nightmare’s return record isn’t as perfect as what we wanted it to be, but it’s just as important as anything else they’ve done.