The re-activation of American Steel, which had started as an off-the-cuff idea in early 2007, was by mid-year a full blown reality. The group’s four original members, who had thrown around the idea of getting back together for some time, decided to start with a house show and see where it went from there. Soon after, long-time friends, Fat Wreck Chords, offered to put out a record, and the group took them up on it, checking into the studio immediately. The result is the first new American Steel record in six years, Destroy Their Future.
In its earliest incarnation, American Steel was a band that sought to absorb influences at the far ends of the musical spectrum – Crass, Fang, The Clash, East Bay pop punk, Irish folk songs, motown, soul – and outstrip them all in both melody and intensity. Starting in 1995 as a loosely organized trio who traded turns at the mic (and occasionally instruments), the group soon recruited a permanent drummer and invested in amps, tuners, and eventually a van, and embarked on a five-year run of touring that would see them criss-crossing the North American continent dozens of times, starting in basements and backyards and eventually crossing into the club circuit.
American Steel’s recorded output is as different from song to song as it is from album to album. The first three American Steel records (1998’s Untitled, 1999’s Rogue’s March, and 2001’s Jagged Thoughts, all of which were recorded by Kevin Army), each take an innovative, complex, and sometimes schizophrenic approach to songwriting. The songs on these records range from the simple and stripped down to the bombastic and over-the-top. What unifies these records is the passion and energy behind each song, and a willingness to extend the range and scope of what can be classified as punk. Many of the band’s songs, and most pointedly those on Rogue’s March, channel the darkness and turmoil of Ryan’s battle with leukemia and its effect on the band at every level.
In May of 2002, in a move that surprised many of their fans and friends, American Steel decided to simply disband, playing their final show at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley. With timing that could almost be called appropriate, American Steel – a band that was built on (and celebrated) contradictions – ended their run just as they were starting to bend a few ears.
No one has been more surprised by the recent return of American Steel than the band members themselves. Rock music may have seen the birth and death of several sub-genres in the years since American Steel’s first run, but beneath the surface, very little has changed. The rise of digital music has made it easier than ever to find bands to like, and harder than ever to find bands to love. Whatever the case, American Steel is back, and Destroy Their Future is their powerful and focused re-entry into the fray.