Review Summary: Anti-Flag's 2003 album The Terror State suffers on many levels, including the blatent ripping off of Against Me! and Rise Against, as well as using the cheesy sloganeering as a crutch for their underdeveloped lyrical work on this album.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
For straight punk music in general, it can sometimes be quite difficult to find enough variety to make the record enjoyable. Even classic punk acts that many people blindly label as such can churn out some of the most monotonous and boring music out there. But for the bad rap that much of punk gets for being repetitive, there are plenty of straight punk bands that can add enough variety to make their music interesting. And while for every band like The Bouncing Souls
that exists, there are plenty more that just churn out some of the most monotonous tripe out there. Unfortunately, The Terror State
, while coming up with some interesting moments, is all around quite disappointing and falls victim to the monotony that plagues plenty of current punk bands.
For those unfamiliar with Anti-Flag
, they are probably best known for their radical politics combined with their generally potent Molotov cocktail of old-school British punk and early American hardcore ala Minor Threat
. And while their sound may seem a tad formulaic, Anti-Flag makes up for it in pure balls to the wall intensity on the majority of their discography.
The Terror State
excels in many areas though. Post War Breakout
is a track penned by the late Woodie Guthrie
, but never given an arrangement until Anti-Flag gave it their own ska-punk makeover. While it obviously wasn’t written by them, it showcases some of the best lyrics on the album, giving an insightful view on the life of a soldier after a war when he realizes that the medals he was awarded are more a badge of shame than one of pride.
Anti-Flag seems to be at their peak on this album on the hardest punk songs, specifically Death of a Nation
with a speedy rhythm section that could cause cardiac arrest if listened to in excess doses. Spitting out extreme criticisms of the current apathetic American culture, Death of a Nation
does what Anti-Flag is best known for: combining fast, aggressive punk with potent political lyrics resulting in some excellent music.
But for the people that don’t appreciate the more caustic side of Anti-Flag, there is plenty of melody to satisfy plenty of neophyte pop-punk crossover listeners. Turncoat
is a sing-along punk song, replete with acoustic intro and bridge, directed right at George W. Bush. While bordering on annoying lyrically, one cannot deny the passion that singer Justin Sane sings with. It’s very obvious that this band means what they sing and it definitely adds to the lyrical potency.
Unfortunately though, this album’s strengths are few and far between for the most part. While sure, there are moments of catchy, almost fun (disregarding lyrical content of course), pop-punk (Turncoat
), and there are certainly moments of fast, political punk (Sold as Freedom
), there are also the moments of just total blandness and repetitiveness.
On several occasions on this album, the band just seems to completely lack any originality, instead replacing it with either botched rip-offs or clumsy sloganeering. It’s quite apparent that Anti-Flag has been influenced by their political peers, such as Against Me!
and Rise Against
. The Against Me! influence is readily apparent on tracks such as Mind the G.A.T.T.
and Tearing Down the Borders
, almost to the point where you begin to question the identity of the band who actually recorded The Terror State
. Rise Against’s influence is obvious in two of the most political tracks, namely You Can Kill the Protester But You Can’t Kill the Protest
and Wake Up!
, both of which contain the breakneck rhythms and shouted vocals that Rise Against has essentially patented as one of the bigger mainstream punk bands in recent memory. Unfortunately, being influenced by your peers in the genre can only be taken so far before it just sounds totally unoriginal, as is the case with the majority of this album.
When they aren’t busy plagiarizing other bands in search of a unique sound, Anti-Flag are just cranking out some tired sounding, whiney, and all around boring political punk. Sure, by the end of the disc you’ve been given a thorough lesson in the atrocities and tragedies of the modern world. In all honesty though, the message is so grating that by the end of the disc, it almost makes you feel more apathetic than when the disc started playing. Musically, The Terror State
just loses all of its appeal after a few spins. The riffs blend together, the vocals just seem flat and uninspired, and the only thing that actually is more pronounced is the fact that every song is filled with sloganeering of some sort. Songs like Rank-in-File
and When You Don’t Control Your Own Government, People Want to Kill You
just show how even music that is designed to be fast paced and interesting can become about as enthralling as brushing your teeth.
When all is said and done, The Terror State
, while succeeding in some areas and having a few songs that are pretty superb in terms of songwriting, there is just entirely too much similarity between several of the tracks, and those that don’t follow the typical formula of the album, just sound far to similar to artists that have obviously influenced the band. It is probably one of the most disappointing and definitely one of the most overrated punk albums from recent times. Unfortunately, I just can't find much lingering enjoyment in this record after 4 or 5 listens.
Death of a Nation
Sold as Freedom