It wasn't until 2012's Bleeding Kansas that Abolitionist really grasped their own identity and were able to stand fully apart from their influences. That's why it's so daring for them to undergo such a significant style change on their second LP, The Growing Disconnect.
The band still have their Dillinger Four/Spits-ish vocals. But, where Kansas left the pop-punk in lieu of post-punk, it's interesting that on Disconnect, the band opt for their most classic sounding punk record to date. For one thing, the band sound harder and sharper than ever: The guitar and drums lock together so tightly that the riffs almost kick out like anarcho-punk smashers. Where the band's songs used to have the warm ambiguity of Jawbreaker, now they slash hard and fast instead. The music here is still rooted in clean, energetic three-minute attacks but the sounds are sharper, at times resembling scrap metal scraped along a fence. Abolitionist have developed a nasty streak, and it works.
Likewise, vocalist Dustin Herron's approach still references the snotty voice of Fat Mike and similar contemporaries, but it too has become more shredded and harsh. While west coast American 90s punk continues to inform his delivery, the blown out bark of bands like Conflict and Anthrax (UK) finds its way creeping into back of his howling so that the music gains a very human, emotional core all while still being able to rock.
Disconnect is the band's second concept LP. Their first concept LP, It Used to Rain, dealt with environmental issues and other more ambiguous concepts. However, Disconnect focuses on the concept of gun rights, ownership and power. The album's narrative is that after some sort of national emergency, the U.S. devolves into a police state and citizens are rounded up, while some form resistance groups and fight back. Interestingly, while the album does cast a negative light on how destructive are and how easy they are to obtain, the characters in the story also resort to using the weapons themselves, which gives the piece more depth. Instead of blatantly shouting what they think, the band offer a general path, and allow the listener to collect meaning from what is scattered about.
Most interesting is that while anti-government albums often paint world leaders as despicable creatures picking on the weaker, here the band blame citizens themselves for the power imbalance. "We can only blame ourselves for the blood / but it's those above that will drown in mud." Often, teachers will urge for students to learn from the past. Perhaps it's more fitting that as suggested by Abolitionist, we try to learn from a possible future.