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the pathetic caverns - music by artist - Anti-Flag

eclectic reviews and opinions

Anti-Flag

For Blood and Empire

(RCA, 2006)

Anti-Flag hasn't changed much over the past decade. They still serve up melodic hardcore-tinged punk with fierce political lyrics. They mix hooky choruses and countercultural thoughts in a way that seems almost sneaky. I get the feeling they want unsuspecting listeners to start humming along with the "whoa-ohs," and start singing, "I'm dead, your bullets cut into my flesh" before they realize they're singing the role of an Iraqi citizen killed by U.S. forces. This stealth attack is possible because Anti-Flag, unlike some political bands, puts the song ahead of the screed. Only "Depleted Uranium Is a War Crime" sinks beneath the weight of its message -- U.S. Representative Jim McDermott's several spoken-word interludes make it less musically successful.

Anti-Flag sounds sharper than ever on For Blood and Empire, thanks in no small part to superstar co-producer/engineer David Schiffman (Rage Against the Machine/Nine Inch Nails). The mix sounds like a million bucks: taut and crisp without sacrificing dynamics, it jumps out of the speakers. Anti-Flag have always tempered their assault with more sonic variation than the average hardcore band. For Blood and Empire features some acoustic guitar and trumpet on one track each and touches throughout of screamo, ska, and even rap/metal. (RATM's Tom Morello guests on one track without changing the overall sound much.) The dynamic, creatively textured vocal arrangements make good use of what the credits call the "Chorus of Dissent."

Late last year, Sony, the parent label for this album, released several CDs with controversial copy-protection software that impaired the performance of listeners' computers and made them more vulnerable to hackers. Since then, I've been advocating a unilateral boycott of Sony to anyone who'll listen. But I think Anti-Flag has done a wonderful job of taking Sony for a ride. Not only do they sing about fighting giant corporations like Sony, they've also gotten Sony to distribute a 24-page booklet with essays, additional information about every song, and links to online resources for activists. And the CD packaging even converts into a stencil for making war resistance grafitti.

This review originally appeared at Avoid Peril.

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