Emerging from the crust-ridden corners of Norway comes the exciting discovery of punk-inspired, Hardcore Metal act Agenda. Melding together a wealth of inspiration ranging from “American Hardcore, Swedish D-beat, and Norwegian Black Metal,” Agenda manifest an overall unique sound and deliver their brand of anthemic crust-punk with a reckless behaviour. Since 2012 the band have released a demo, two split albums, and their first full length album titled ‘Menneskehetens Massegrav,’ which saw the band using a more straightforward and raw approach to their gritty sound. However, on their sophomore album ‘Apocalyptic Wasteland Blues’ set to release on August 23rd via Fysisk Format, Agenda have taken the time to really build on their personal sound, developing more anthemic melodies around the crusty tone that they employ, and utilising clearer production tactics, all while maintaining their punk roots.

I immediately gravitated towards the opening track and first single off the album, Suffer. The song begins on a mellow note and erupts into what reminded me of an  ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ era Killswitch Engage speed melody colliding at full force with the usual energetic assault of Disfear. Save Your Praise ignites in true punk fashion with proper two-step drum beat and guitar feedback. This track is straight to the point and played with speed, making the words of the chorus, “Save your praise,” accessible for a crowd scream-along. It is clear that the band have no problem striking up classic punk inspired guitar runs, playing closely to that American Hardcore influence. However, Agenda switch gears on the sludgier Life Left Behind, which centres around a southern rock riff and hauling groove. Crawling tempo changes become common in the slow-paced Road to Hell and the introduction to both Walls and One Question Remains. These slower elements add some contrast and new dynamics to the sound of this album.

Through the grating vocal chords of the charismatic Hans Olaf, each word is pierced into your skull. As the title of the album suggests, his coarse shrieks delve into ideas of deprivation, hopelessness, and the downfall of civilisation, both individually and as a whole. Cognitive Dissonance gives into that more sombre mood, producing a more emotive melody while maintaining a high level of intensity these guys crave. There are definitely more thought provoking qualities to this track based on how the music plays off the title of the song, and the layered melodies that ring throughout. I can see this song and the specific lyrics as being a more introspective piece than the overall dismal nature of the album. Do or Die shares those similar qualities and capitalises on the catchiness of the lead guitar rhythm. Based on a chunk of these tracks, it appears that Agenda have taken a deep dive into their D-beat influences and have created an impressive number of appealing selections.

There is a common thread throughout ‘Apocalyptic Wasteland Blues,’ which actually serves as a core element to Agenda as a whole and that is their punk roots and angst-ridden attitude. On this album it seems that they have put more thought into their songwriting and guitar riffs, opening up their melodic range a bit more than on their debut album. I definitely see that Norwegian Black Metal influence being reduced drastically on this record in comparison to their first full length. The band seem to have put more focus on their melodic side to produce more Comeback Kid style guitar runs and D-beat parts similar to their contemporaries, Martyrdöd. There is a pessimistic perspective radiating from the soul of this band and the components on this record from the extreme elements to the softer sections, are all treated as the perfect vehicle to express those views.