The return of American Nightmare is somewhat mystifying. The Boston-based unit were a dominating force in melodic-leaning hardcore punk throughout the early years of the new millennium. They briefly changed their name to Give Up the Ghost in 2002, but broke up in 2004. Members went on to play in Cold Cave, Head Automatica, My Chemical Romance and the Hope Conspiracy, and since 2011, have provided a reincarnation of the band for intermittent performances of the agreeable parts of their catalogue.
All might be well if reunioncore is your thing, but did anyone truly ask for a new American Nightmare record? Their latest self-titled effort is hardly definitive and mostly doubtful.
The excursion finds the group leaning less towards the New England youth crew riffs and melodic accents that gave them notoriety, now favouring D.C. punk and art rock mannerisms: a little less Bridge Nine, a little more Dischord. "Gloom Forever" and first single "The World Is Blue" may not be what older fans were hoping for, but the melancholy ambiance makes for an enjoyable encounter.
Young listeners just learning of American Nightmare could find this type of material digestible if they've come to embrace the experimental nature of bands like Give and Praise. However, vocalist Wes Eisold and company are undeniably at their best emulating the energy of their early years on "Lower Than Life," the album's fiercest moment.
American Nightmare is not convincing or consistent. "Dream" and "Flowers Under Siege" hardly feel like songs, more like interludes or perhaps brief, hollow tantrums. The bulk of the release is barely satisfactory material that sporadically veers into untried territory that could have been worthy additions to a future Cold Cave album. (Rise Records)