Anti-Flag - For Blood And Empire
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Though adamantly anti-major-label at one point in their career, Anti-Flag finally decided to emerge from the underground and make the leap from the indie world to the realms of RCA in April 2005. Thus, after being together for over ten years and boasting almost as many releases, For Blood and Empire marksAnti-Flag's entry into the big leagues. Fans and naysayers alike couldn't help but question the band's new label status leading up to the album's release. Could a group with such a brash, heated political agenda and in-your-face leftist politics actually -- and believably -- fit alongside Kelly Clarkson and the Strokes with their credibility intact? At the very least, the band's outrage and frustration hadn't been tempered. Anti-Flag was conceived pissed-off at the government (among other subjects), and things sure hadn't cooled down with George W and crew comfortably residing in the White House throughout the early 2000s. As would be expected then, For Blood and Empire is boiling over with vehement anti-Bush attacks and confrontational lyrics that overwhelmingly target the war in Iraq -- from war profiteering to consequences of depleted uranium to omnipresent propaganda to casualties on both sides of the fight. With all of the singalong, fist-in-the-air anthems still present (and more than enough background "woahs"), fans should at least be happy to hear that their beloved Anti-Flag hasn't compromised its grasp of the surging chorus. After all, the scrappiness and raw rage of earlier efforts gave way to the more pop-oriented and melodic nature of later work a few albums back, and this effort is no different. Even the opening notes of "I'd Tell You But..." are comfortingly familiar, as there's always been something about their guitar work that makes a song utterly Anti-Flag even before Justin Sane's distinctive vocals kick in. There's a sort of a ska-ish feel to "The Press Corpse" and "The W.T.O. Kills Farmers," while "This Is the End (For You My Friend)," could just as easily fit on a Good Charlotterecord. And though the slight ramble of the acoustic-driven "1 Trillion Dollar$" sounds like Sane's solo work, it gets as close to country balladry as Anti-Flag is probably ever going to get. The album is a tad clean and subdued, but this doesn't necessarily detract from Anti-Flag's message, which comes across as loud and clear as it always does. Kids picking this up won't necessarily have to figure politics out on their own, as Anti-Flag tells them exactly what to think and the liner notes brim with quotes and explanations backing their ideas up further. So with a new home on RCA, the band is now kind of like the Hot Topic version of Propagandhi. Leftist beliefs with rounded edges that are accessibly packaged yet still offensive enough to some to be "punk." And while their convictions are assuredly sincere -- and the topics brought up important to discuss -- something about the band can't help to cause one to step back and raise an eyebrow a bit. Overall, and despite its major label status, For Blood and Empire is through and through another Anti-Flag album. Thus, those who enjoy the guys' political snottiness will find plenty to like here, but the album won't do anything to convert those who have always found them slightly annoying.