Review Summary: If you were looking for hardcore meets mainstream with For Blood and Empire, you probably should not have been surprised when you were extremely let down. If you were looking for an album packed with several likeable tunes, than wish granted with Anti-Fl2 of 2 thought this review was well written
When Anti-Flag signed to major label RCA a myriad of punk youth nervously contemplated the suddenly proper and commercially successful attempt of an album that was sure to be released by the band following the tough decision to "sell their souls." Instead, Anti-Flag shocked a great many and released "For Blood and Empire" a thirteen track experiment in the life of a corporate based band, the very best part being that the band didn't have to trade away their ideals to make it happen.
Highlights are somewhat difficult to come by when glancing over the album, not because of the lack of anthematic songs, but more because Anti-Flag pushed the album toward two different audiences: their old underground fans, and their soon to be mainstream fans. So for instance a song like "This is the End (For you my Friend)," that will forever be the acme of the band's mainstream career, is, for that very reason, despised amongst the underground punks. Nevertheless, I feel the song is the perfect starting point for a review of the album. Does it represent the crowing achievement for the Pittsburgh band? Doubtful. However, while still retaining their edgy style, Anti-Flag managed to experiment on this track with intermitent pauses and a and a drumming intro seeminglly signaling Anti-Flag's deployment into battle against media that manipulates kids into thinking they need to look or feel a certain way. Is it punk? Eh, that's questionable, probably more alt. rock, but is it an all around good song, you'd be hard pressed to find a clear cut better tune on the album.
Other highlights include the fist pumping anthem, "The Press Corpse", the well-produced half acoustic, half rocking attack on war spending, "One Trillion Dollars", and the flat out punk awareness track "Depleted Uranium is a War Crime." The first of these, "The Press Corpse" has a steady pulse throughout the verse created by surging drums and calculated guitar strumming with Chris #2 adding his classic bass lines behind. The chorus makes you want to shout along with Justin Sane, whiney voice, and all, and the loping drums and descending bassline in the bridge add to the tune.
The second song mentioned above "One Trillion Dollars" is clearly not something you would find on your average Anti-Flag record, yet with an anti war anti military recruitment message still in mind the band forms an excellent piece of music, granted the lyrics falter at times, for instance "One trillion dollars could make the fat lady sing/ One trillion dollars what a bull*** useless thing." But musicianship on the part of #2 and drummer Pat Thetic really keeps this number afloat.
The third song, "Depleted Uranium is a War Crime" sounds as if were removed off of one of their early hardcore records. Justin Sane and Chris Head work to keep up the swift guitar work, with sick bass licks thickening the sound and pounding drums really bringing the message home, all the while the song often pauses for brief explanations of what depleted uranium is by U.S. Representative Jim McDermott. The only fault here is that at 4:07 the song seems to drag on a little too long, perhaps foreshadowing a problem that would haunt the band on their follow up record.
Where does the album fall short then, well, to start songs like "Hymn For The Dead" and "Cities Burn" feel oddly out of place on the record. The former being drawn out and redundant and almost ballad like for all it's worth. The latter just feels a little too pop influenced even for a mainstream Anti-Flag record, after all, by the time we've gotten to it at track twelve we've grown to expect more from the record. The guitar work also proves falliable, not because of lack of talent (the album has plenty blaring solos), but because it does get repetative once you've gone through the entire record, but not enough to wash away some great tunes.
The Best Parts: #2's bass work.
Depleted Uranium is a War Crime.
Anti-Flag keeps their political edge.
The Worst Parts: Repetative guitar.
A couple misplaced songs.