Early ‘00s hardcore kids had a moment to forget that they’d become less-hardcore adults when news broke that American Nightmare’s original lineup began recording their first full-length album since We’re Down Till We’re Underground. The Massachusetts-based hardcore band gained popularity for their largely straight-forward, northeastern brand of hardcore peppered with elements of post-hardcore. After a struggle to solidify rights to their band name, then their initial disbandment in 2004, the band began a fifteen-year void of new releases. So when American Nightmare was announced, it came with an implicit promise of recapturing an era.
The 9 song return-to-form is less akin to We’re Down Till We’re Underground’s quasi-experimental genre-bending. Instead, American Nightmare revisits the no frills sound of their first full length, Background Music, but with the production value and writing of a matured band. The self-titled album is fast, catchy, simple, and seemingly written with live performance in mind.
“The World Is Blue” opens the album with force, setting the tone of the album as a bouncing, pushing, experience to be had in a pit of peers. There is no pretense in the anger and energy of the first returning sounds of American Nightmare.
“Flowers Under Seige”, the forty-second follow up to “The World Is Blue”, was an odd choice for second track, as it has a similar composition to the intro of “The World Is Blue”. The songs might’ve worked well to create the album’s motif if the track had been sequenced differently on the track list, but it felt a little redundant in the second pole position. Still, the song proves to be a catchy tune that undoubtedly translates to a crushing live performance.
The driving aggression of “American Dream” leading into the head-bouncing “War” signals American Nightmare’s return to a more traditional approach to hardcore. Jump around. Play hard. Feel unity. Repeat.
“Colder Than Death” breaks into post-punk territory, altering the tonal landscape of the album in an enjoyable way. After seventh track, it’s easy to wonder if American Nightmare will approach their next album with the same departure that Ceremony took between Rohnert Park and The L-Shaped Man.
The pure frenetic energy of “Dream” shifts to a lo-fi production to capture the rasp and raw energy of a blasting thirty-six seconds. Followed by the jammy intro of “Crisis of Faith”, these songs close the album in a smart way that showcases the bands’ range.
For those more attuned to American Nightmare’s early releases, much of American Nightmare proves to be a welcome return to roots. The masterful play with dynamic and rhythm on We’re Down Till We’re Underground isn’t quite present on American Nightmare, but it’d be remiss to believe that was the goal of the album. American Nightmare have returned with a brash, honest record that was clearly meant to be performed, to be witnessed rather than only heard.