Agnostic Front - Biography
Agnostic Front were one of the leaders of the New York City hardcore movement that emerged in the early 1980’s. Through a revolving door of membership changes, the band — mostly centered around guitarist Vinnie Stigma and vocalist Roger Miret — has veered from hardcore to thrash metal and back to a hybrid hardcore/oi! sound in later years. More than 25 years after their debut, the band continues to churn out releases and tour on a regular basis.
New York City in the early 1980’s was a fertile breeding ground for what became known as hardcore punk. With the city troubled from recession, crime, and ineffective government, many of the city’s youth were unemployed and frustrated. Musical aftershocks of the original punk movement, especially the speedier working-class bands like The Dictators and the Ramones, were still being felt and the songs was only about to get harder, angrier, and faster. Guitarist Vinnie Stigma organized a new hardcore band, Zoo Crew, with singer John Watson in 1982, but Watson lasted only a few months before being replaced by Cuban-born singer Roger Miret. The son of Cuban refugees, Miret was politically opinionated and his working-class swagger was the perfect foil for Stigma’s punishing guitar attack. After recruiting new members drummer Ray Beez (a.k.a. Ray Barbieri) and bassist Adam Moochie, the group started playing local shows and soon recorded their debut self-released EP, United Blood (Last Warning Records), released in 1984. The group experienced the first of its frequent line-up changes, with bassist Rob Kabula replacing Moochie, and drummer Jimmy Colletti replacing Ray Beez. That same year, they recorded and released their debut fulllength album, Victim In Pain (1984 Relativity), a release now considered a classic of the New York City hardcore movement. The group engaged in some limited touring, but mostly became known for playing many of the infamous Sunday afternoon matinee shows at clubs in New York City’s Lower East Side like A7 and the infamous CBGB’s.
New York City’s first hardcore movement lasted only a few years and, like any scene, the bands burned out, either breaking up or moving on to some other kind of music. Agnostic Front stayed together, acquiring new drummer Louie Beatto and second guitarist Alex Kinon. Veering their sound towards thrash metal, they utilized the common tags of the genre like doubled-up kick drums and fast, controlled guitar riffing. Their 1986 album Cause For Alarm, released on the metal-oriented Combat Records label, alienated many of their early hardcore fans who felt the band had become too metallic. However, over time Cause For Alarm has become recognized as one of the first albums to truly unite the hardcore and speed metal sounds together. The lineup that recorded Cause For Alarm disintegrated soon after the album’s completion, and Miret and Stigma built a new band that included guitarist Steve Martin, drummer Will Shepler, and bassist Alan Peters to record the band's next album.
1987’s Liberty & Justice For...(Combat) returned the band to a more straight-ahead hardcore sound. By the end of the ‘80s, the New York City hardcore scene was pretty much a thing of the past, and many of the shows and clubs had been closed down due to factional fighting. Agnostic Front, now with new bassist Craig Setari, recorded the live album Live At CBGB (Combat) in 1989 as a bookend to the era. Soon after, the troubled Miret was arrested on serious drug charges and served two years in prison. While Miret was in prison, Stigma decided to carry on with the band, and undertook a European tour with new singer Alan Peters and new guitarist Matt Henderson. While in prison, Miret underwent drug rehabilitation and wrote lyrics and poems in an attempt to make sense of his situation. Once Miret was released from prison in 1992, he was welcomed back into the band, and the group recorded and released their next album, One Voice (1992 Combat), that same year. Originally intended as the group’s farewell album, One Voice was much more metallic than any of their previous albums and again alienated much of their old following. Also in 1992, Combat issued a compilation album of the band’s output, To Be Continued: The Best of Agnostic Front.
The group decided to disband after a farewell concert at CBGB’s in 1992. The band’s final show was recorded and issued the following year as the live album Last Warning (1993 Combat). Agnostic Front members Henderson and Stigma formed the band Madball with Miret’s younger brother, vocalist Freddy Cricien. In 1997, Miret and Stigma reformed Agnostic Front with drummer Jimmy Colletti and Against the Grain bassist Rob Kabula. The newly reformed band signed with West Coast punk label Epitaph and released the comeback album Something’s Gotta Give (Epitaph) in 1998. A return to the band’s original hardcore/oi! sound, the album featured guest spots from members of Rancid and Murphy’s Law. Agnostic Front toured to support the album, but they returned quickly to the studio and recorded their follow-up, Riot, Riot, Upstairs (Epitaph), released in 1999. With new bassist Mike Gallo, the group recorded Dead Yuppies in 2001 before leaving Epitaph.
In 2002, on a break away from Agnostic Front, Miret formed the side band Roger Miret and the Disasters — a more gritty, street-punk band — with Rhys Kill and Luke Rota. To date, the band has released three albums. Also in 2002, Agnostic Front released a split album titled Working Class Heroes with punk band Discipline on the I Scream Records label, before signing on with Nuclear Blast Records in 2004. The group’s first record for Nuclear Blast was 2005’s Another Voice, which — with its return to the trash metal/hardcore hybrid sound — seems like a follow-up to the band’s earlier One Voice release. The album was co-produced by Hatebreed member Jamey Jasta, and sounds similar to that band’s output. In 2006, Agnostc Front released the live DVD and CD Live At CBGB (Nuclear Blast), featuring one of the last performances at the legendary New York City Bowery club where the band had gotten their start. The show was part of series of performances in support of the club, which was in danger of closing. CBGB finally closed its doors for good in October of 2006.
Agnostic Front released their tenth studio album, Warriors (Nuclear Blast), in November of 2007. Warriors features more positive lyrics targeted towards trying to change many of society’s ills. After more than 25 years, Agnostic Front are still delivering a powerful sound and message to all that will listen.