Even while bubbling below the surface for nearly their entire existence, Pittsburgh's Aus-Rotten were arguably one of the most important bands of the 1990s in the American punk scene. Not exactly crust per se -- due mostly to the lack of "X," "Anti-" and "Dis-" in their name and vocals that were actually decipherable -- but hard to separate from their anarcho roots and the future crust acts they would go on to influence. As the 1990s came to an end, so too did Aus-Rotten. In its wake, vocalist Dave Trenga, guitarist Bill Chamberlain, and drummer Matt Garabedian formed Behind Enemy Lines, and the cycle of life was complete.
Initially released in 2001 on Tribal War Records, the same label that put out Aus-Rotten's tumultuous discography Not One Single Fucking Hit, Know Your Enemy introduces a band willing to pick up where Aus-Rotten left off, while adducing a new set of progressive ideas. While Behind Enemy Lines' topical hardcore differs substantially from the slogan-driven anthems of A-R, there is no lack of leftist bite in songs like "Fucking Bastards," "American Made Death Squad" and "Murder at the G-8 Summit." And though some things have remained relatively unchanged in the transition between bands, such as Dave Trenga's alternating 4/4 vocal delivery, Behind Enemy Lines shows a growth in lyrical themes and ideas that doesn't sacrifice wit for the sake of maturity.
The album's opener, "Behind Enemy Lines" is the only song that doesn't directly address a particular topic of concern, which makes sense as it serves as a sort of de facto musical manifesto, attacking everything from the manipulation of the bureaucracy, democratic subversion and apathetic populace. "Setting Things Right Again," sung partially in the first-person perspective of George W. Bush, offers up not only laughs, but a pragmatic perspective sorely lacking in the anarcho/crust sphere: "I can't relate to homosexuals so I'll keep same sex marriage banned / In fact the only dick I like is my second in command / You may remember Mr. Cheney, he was one of my daddy's peers / And he'll really be an asset if he can live for four more years / He's a veteran of the trenches so I put him on my team / Because it's time to bring back all the tactics of the Reagan-Bush regime / With Jeb's help I stole the election and brought the liberal era to an end / And although the left-wing will not like it I'm going to set things right again."
Outside the blatantly crass rhetoric of "Dogmatic Slumber" and "Voice of Dissent," Behind Enemy Lines demonstrates a more pensive and personal reaction to such injustices as domestic violence in the almost melodic "Why Does She Stay?" and capital punishment in "Closure?", which muses "No one can breathe easy until he's drawn his last breath / And taken his place amongst his victims in the company of death." "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" tackles the issue of lingering nuclear concerns well past the Cold War era that bodes increasingly urgent with the destabilization of Pakistan: "They were only forgotten, they were never disarmed / The threat has not been left behind, they're only out of sight and out of mind."
The reissue of Know Your Enemy also includes a 12-page foldout booklet (which was not available with the original pressing), and a remastered finish by Dan Siskind of Profane Existence that puts a crisp coat on the band's crunchy sound. For uncompromising and hard-hitting punk rock embedded with the spirit of anarcho and crust, with humor, cynicism, and dissent in tow, look no further than Behind Enemy Lines.