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For anyone who has heard Behind Enemy Line's previous work should know what to expect with this one. With their debut they established their sound and with The Global Cannibal they mastered it. With One Nation Under the Iron Fist of God, they continue their sound, while not really adding anything new to it. While that may sound like a negative thing, it should be noted that the band remains very good at what they do. This is a very solid album. However, for a follow up album to a masterpiece like The Global Cannibal, one might expect a bit more. Here, it seems as if they are in their comfort zone. They do what they do, and they do it well, but this album is not what it could have been. The songwriting is not as good as the previous album (not to imply that there is anything wrong with it), which should not come as a surprise as this is their third album in pretty much the same style.
Behind Enemy Lines is a pissed off band. Fiercely political, many of their songs are scathing criticism of the second Bush administration. Like their music, their lyrics are uncompromising and hard-hitting. They read like opinionated political commentary. This album isn't much different than previous releases, and the lyrics are no exception. The Global Cannibal was also largely a criticism of George W. Bush, who the band often refers to as King George the Second. The band also focuses on lyrics typical of the punk scene: the exploitation of the third world, criticism of capitalism, anti-religious themes and anti-fascism.
Although for the most part associated with the crust punk scene, Behind Enemy Lines doesn't really sound like the average crust band. They come off as hardcore on 'roid rage, with a healthy amount of thrash riffs thrown in for good measure. Although the song structures are largely rooted in hardcore, the riffs have just as much to do with metal as they do with punk. The riffing is much harder and heavier hitting than what you might expect from your average hardcore band and the thrash influence should be obvious to anyone who listens to a few songs.
While David's vocals are generally clean, they are about as aggressive and abrasive as you can get without crossing the threshold into harsh vocals. The anger present in the lyrics certainly come out in the vocals. Just like the song structures, they are rooted in hardcore punk. They manage to sound even more angry and aggressive than just about any band (and hardcore vocals generally aren't known for being mellow). Other members make brief vocal cameos, the most notable one somewhat resembling a death growl. Drummer Matt Garabedian (who, just as a side note, is quite possibly the most muscular person in the punk and metal scenes) plays a very important role in the band. Not only does he do a spectacular job behind the kit, he also provides the band's artwork. His drumming pounds away unrelentingly when it needs to, but also often adds a great deal to the atmosphere. At the beginning of “Gutter Religion”, his drumming creates an immense amount of tension. The drums always perfectly fit the section they are playing along to at the time, and are consistent in quality.
While this album is miles ahead of most in the crust punk scene, it is hard to view it removed from their previous album. The Global Cannibal was such a colossal beast, that while this no doubt a high quality release, it comes as somewhat of a minor disappointment. There aren't as many moments that jump up at you and kick you in the teeth. There are no songs on here that can touch “Self-Inflicted Extinction”, “The Global Cannibal” or “Hooked On Christ”. While the production is better than ever, the old rawer style worked fine for the band. There are about five songs on this one that stand above the rest. The sampled intro is truly haunting, setting the tone for the provocative topics that will be brought up over the course of the album. The doomy “Flooded” seems like a subtle attempt at experimentation, which pays off quite well. The build up of the doomy parts is met with the powerful release of the faster punk sections, a quite potent combination. The songwriting on “Third World Blood” is some of the best on the album. “American Rape Rooms” is by far the best song on the album, featuring very strong songwriting. It's not quite as good as their best songs from previous albums, but it towers above the rest of the songs, the obvious successor to the throne created by The Global Cannibal. The lyrics in this song are blatantly aggressive and make it impossible not to know where the band stand on the political spectrum:
“ We're kidnapping civilians to keep America safe
We're imprisoning the innocent to keep America safe
We're murdering people to keep America safe
We're raping children to keep America safe
Before the sickening images can take political tole
The right-wing spin machine plays damage control
Talking points are dispensed to protect their ranks
The torture draws comparison to fraternity pranks
To justify the torture of the “terrorist enemy”
Our crimes against humanity are wartime necessity.”
With One Nation Under the Iron Fist of God, Behind Enemy Lines continue to reign as one of the leading forces in the crust punk scene – they just do so in a fairly expected way. This is by all means a great album, but them previously putting out one of the best crust punk albums of all time does put a slight damper on things. Nevertheless this is quality throughout and definitely should be given a listen by anyone interested in crust, crossover or hardcore punk (even thrash fans will probably find something to like). However, if they pushed themselves out of their comfort zone, perhaps they could have created a worthy successor to The Global Cannibal. Despite these gripes, this is not an album to be overlooked and does nothing to weaken the band's status of one of the best in the crust scene. To people just getting into the band, check out the previous album first. If you like it, there really is no reason you won't like this one, even if it isn't quite as good.