American Nightmare definitely gave up the ghost with new album.
I hate trying to reason my way through work from bands that either, a) completely change their style, or b) take a long hiatus. I mean, American Nightmare definitely broke up and was long gone before making a return. And how should I feel about that? Not just for AN, but for any band. It's a disservice to the artist if you plan to hold them up to what they were before. If they return with a new sound or different vibe, it kind of feels like why return under that name instead of just doing something new that better suits the new sound and direction of the music?
If I'm comparing this to the old stuff, specifically Background Music, this is completely flat. It doesn't have the energy, the aggression, the intensity - none of it. When I see a track that clocks in well under a minute, I remember when I first heard "I Saved Latin" or even the slightly longer than a minute scorcher that is "Hearts." Instead, I get something that doesn't really feel like it goes anywhere ("Flowers Under Siege") or only stands out because the band opted for a completely different production than the songs on the rest of the album ("Dream").
Of course, I think everyone who loves old American Nightmare, the memory of American Nightmare, or the current incarnation would probably argue that this shouldn't be compared to the old material because it was a completely different world. They're right. I didn't expect this record to sound like the old stuff, but I also was hoping that it wouldn't sounds so much like this.
I felt like a lot of this had the tempo and production of a band more akin to Hope Conspiracy (a great band) or, get this, AFI (also, a great band). I just don't know if the marriage of the two worlds, particularly without the atmosphere of either band and without the same intensity comes off that well. I might be the only one that hears the sounds of those two bands in the new American Nightmare, but I hear so much of The Art of Drowning ("Gloom Forever") and Death Knows Your Name ("War").
Lyrically, it also doesn't hit me in any particular way. Yet another way that this album just doesn't reflect the AN that I grew up on.
The band has taken a step in a new direction with this self-titled release. It's been 17 years since Background Music helped shape my mind, and it's absolutely acceptable for the band to be something different. I think it comes off well, much better than the abrupt change of a band like, say, Ceremony. In the end, it's a record that is fine, but I can't find more in it than that and I think that's okay.
by Daniel Coughlin