Agnostic Front

Friday, Oct. 22; Galaxy

Ah, Agnostic Front. The band that created the mosh pit and unwittingly saved heavy metal in the process.

Way back in the early '80s, metal was mutating from the sludgy Sabbath sound through the semiheavy theatrics of Kiss and into the poncy fluff of Ratt, the Crüe and, eventually, Poison. Sure, Motörhead was still around, but Motörhead has always been around, and always will be, just like Stonehenge. And besides, they're British. Like Stonehenge. Disillusioned white American high-school boys were looking for something as hormonally violent and confused as they were, and punk had just too many variables. How could you count on a genre that included such disparate (and often British) elements as the Pistols, Elvis Costello and X? They wanted "No Future" but sometimes got "Alison." And then, from the streets of the hardest city in the world, came the soundtrack for their lives: Victim in Pain by New York's Agnostic Front.

They called it hardcore, and it was good: swarming guitars, bass that hit like a sock full of nickels, triple-time drums and the shout-singing lyrics with messages of Unity through Aggression. Agnostic Front laced up their combat boots and stomped a mudhole in the back of Heavy Metal, and suburban America roared its approval. Kids shredded their clothing, forced their parents to buy them Doc Martens and gave each other scary tattoos to honor their new Lords of Heavy. They danced with joy, only it was a shambling, violent dance comprising rigidly performed maneuvers (Picking Up Change, the Gorilla, NYC Classic), and they called it moshing.

The metal kids were dazed but visited the swirling pits enough times to realize that they wanted what Agnostic Front had wrought. The smarter metal heads copied Vinnie Stigma's rampaging guitar lines and Roger Miret's sociopolitical, haikulike song structures. They welded the charging tempo of hardcore to the white-blues groove of metal and dubbed it speed metal, thrash metal, speedcore and anything else they could think of to hide the fact that they had stolen the secret of fire from Agnostic Front. Most of those metal copycat bands have fallen by the wayside, burned beyond recognition by the fury of what they had pilfered. Agnostic Front still stands tall over the strange crossroads of hardcore and metal, defending the Lands of Hardcore Purity from long-haired invaders. Only the strong need attend this show. The rest of you can save your money for the Godsmack show. Losers.