Agnostic Front

The year was 1982. The place, New York City. Who'd guess that almost twenty years later a band first called Zoo Crew would emerge as the seldom contested, always respected godfathers of hardcore - Agnostic Front? "Vinnie Stigma was the creator of the name," says Cuban-born vocalist, Roger Miret. "He liked the definition of "agnostic"; to be in doubt of the absolute truth, to question authority and he wanted more than a band. He wanted a movement, a front, so it is christened Agnostic Front. That's what he tells everyone and that's basically it!" AF quickly etched their names in the concrete sidewalk in the history of hardcore with the unchained, unforgiving "Victim In Pain" LP, a 15-minute long musical fight. That album helped establish AF as one of the meanest sounding bands in punk, helped create the term "hardcore", and placed all of New York hardcore on the map by association. "We had no idea that in the beginning that this would branch out as far as it did," admits Roger. "Back then we were lucky to get a van and drive down to Washington D.C. to play without the van breaking down along the way or something." Their strength through pain was an infection that still has no cure. AF long outlived their now-legendary contemporaries like Minor Threat, SSDecontrol, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag - and could easily live on their laurels. But the fight's not over. "It's social politics," Roger says. "The day-to-day reality of waking up, reading the newspaper, and walking around the neighborhood. It's a hard stare on why the world is still one fucked-up place and we tackle the very real shit that's going down; gentrification's running rampant, working wages aren't, and backs are still being stabbed." The years in-between the formation of AF have been anything but hopping and skipping through candy land, but more akin growing up on streets, watching the lights shot out one by one. Jail terms have been served. Divorces have been filed. Close friends have died. Some have been murdered. Even Roger's back was broken. You may ask what drives the AF legacy? It's the rhythms of machine guns and garbage trucks that'll make your fists shake and have you instantly chanting along. But the songs are deeper than its musical rage. Found inside is a darkened maturity - a distilled, finely tuned aggression that's spun on the long-running Stigma/Miret axis. The result isn't pretty. It's still undeniably NYHC and it works for several reasons. One, Roger neither preaches nor whines. He calls it how he sees it. "There is a message contained in this," Roger says. "Think before you strike." Secondly, Roger is grounded. There's no rock star hang-ups, no over-inflated head that prevents him from walking through doorways. (The last time I met Roger, he was handing out free sodas to the kids standing in line at the Unity Tour 3 show.) "We're the last stupid punk rock band alive," Roger self-effaces. "I guess it's in our hearts. We like to suffer and we like the abuse. It's like a bad drug addiction you can't shake off or like a bad marriage still only sticking around for the kids. Honestly, we live it. It is our lives and it is all we know." AF as a band, still works like a musical razor blade. Regardless of their history, the proof is simple: AF's songs are still hard, cutting, strong musical hit and runs. No one is born with tattoos. No one's born hardcore. But when the ink or the music sets in, you're changed. AGNOSTIC FRONT continues to be living embodiment that "hardcore for life" isn't an empty slogan or a musical dead end.

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