Existential dread, class war, and alienation? Seems like a great time for some new American Nightmare. The storm clouds of tomorrow loom over this fantastic new EP from the beloved hardcore (with post-punk sprinkles) institution on their latest release Dedicated To The Next World (Heartworm Press).
The band have always excelled at songs, much like Modern Life Is War, that ache for better circumstances, and bleed working-class pain. This first-ever 10″ vinyl release is no different and the commodity culture, personhood-erasing ‘Self Check Out’ is one of the leanest and most concise “cry for help” songs they have written yet. You will feel like someone summarized the entire rat race of life when Wesley Eisold hollers “Hanging on a dream I cant explain/The noose loosens up when I numb the pain.”
This EP is all killer, no filler, and feels like flipping over an A and B side in a flash of immediacy. Whatever this band does, it is earnest and will make you scream your throat red trying to escape constrictions via pure feeling.
American Nightmare have absorbed their earlier brutality into an amalgam with their more emo-influenced Give Up The Ghost-era and the self-titled maturity of a gritty song like ‘American Death’, giving us four songs that maximize songcraft, pack a punch, emphasize simplicity, and deliver execution over showing off. They basically swing for the fences in every way. ‘Real Love’ is not a Beatles cover, erupting more like a dirty Stooges, Guitar Wolf‘s mighty ‘Sex Jaguar’ or a Brix Smith song.
It has been over twenty damn years since I last saw them live on a stacked bill with Glassjaw, Blood Brothers (RIP) and Coheed in Jersey and I will always remember how they stole the show amidst steep competition.
Since then, a band like Blacklisted maybe has gone further out there into alternative pastures, but American Nightmare expanded on their own initial template more than people may have once thought they ever would while still “keeping it real.” Similarly to how one of my favorite new and vital current hardcore bands Destiny Bond describe themselves on their ‘Be My Vengeance’ upcoming release Bandcamp bio, the band are “unafraid of melody but not completely enamored with it.”
You can’t blame American Nightmare for a blast of howling fury like ‘How I Got Away’ focusing on escapism, the next world, or wishing for change. It is different than Elon Musk trying to get all the uber elites in a rocket to another planet after this one is destroyed ala Don’t Look Up. In a time when Sweet Tooth and The Last Of Us are popular and society is crumbling around us, it is easy to wonder where it is all going.
I am writing this review on Memorial Day weekend as American freedom continues to be exposed as a lie. Trump shoved in a million underqualified judges to ruin Democracy, knowing even if he went down that they could unleash draconian, backwards Conservative havoc bent on control. A real American nightmare is underway in the form of the rampant bigotry in Florida promoting ahistorical book removal, laws aimed at hiding black history and harming LGBTQAI2S+ and the sitting Dem president remains lukewarm in action while spouting platitudes to the targeted communities. So you think people are indoctrinating white kids with guilt but want to cram the idea of original sin on them for social control? Make it make sense. Hayley Williams of Paramore thankfully recently told a crowd that if they vote for Ron DeSantis they are dead to her.
My point is that we need bands with something to say more than ever.
Many hardcore bands flame out or vanish after a few years. American Nightmare are proof that connectivity and a regional sound or unique vision can build to a lasting legacy. To paraphrase The Fall (yeah, I know that band is not American), expressing yourself creatively in times of trouble is really “This Nation’s Saving Grace.”
Buy the album here:
8 / 10
MORGAN Y. EVANS