Launched on the increasingly popular PledgeMusic, Moral Dilemma’s third and final album Is Anyone Alive Out There? can probably lay claim to being the most punk album of 2014. Funded by the fans for the fans, and having announced that they will play no final shows, this record is to be a send-off for a band who have given it everything for the past eight years. I’m going to be honest and say it straight off the bat – this is a perfect album. This is less a band riding off into the sunset after a shift well played and more a band scorching its way down to hell and taking absolutely everything else down with it.
Where previous Moral Dilemma efforts have been (and I mean this in the most flattering sense) kind of scrappy affairs with minimal production values and more or less paint-by-numbers hardcore punk, Is Anyone Alive Out There? showcases a band giving their legs one last glorious stretch. In terms of the step up these guys have made between albums; think the gap between Diesel and Power and Total 13 by Backyard Babies. Think Bleach to Nevermind. Think In Casino Out to Relationship of Command.
The album kicks off with a slow build up and a very metal guitar solo intro before giving way to the more familiar breakneck Moral Dilemma shtick. It’s an absolute thrill-ride, but this is merely the tip of a furious iceberg. Next up is album highlight ‘Lost Cause For Alarm’, which is the kind of tune Bad Religion would kill to come up with these days. It is full of impressive guitar fills and boasts an incredibly catchy chorus – exactly the sort of song that could launch a band right into the big time. With the two vocalists swapping lines, it’s almost like Johnny Foreigner high on petrol fumes.
It isn’t all gutter punk fury on Is Anyone Alive Out There? though, as the band have really diversified their sound. It’s almost like knowing this was their last roll of the dice, they decided to throw absolutely everything at it; kitchen sink and all. You get the rockabilly-skiffle-punk of ‘Spare The Vote, Spoil The Ballot’, you get Flamenco guitar tapping in ‘Evolution’, but perhaps the biggest surprise of all is in ‘Building Gallows’. This is another song with masses of crossover potential utilising a Hammond organ and a harmonica. It wouldn’t sound out of place on an album by their German gutter-punk counterparts Radio Dead Ones, or even – at a push – The Gaslight Anthem.
Put simply, there is not a bad song on Is Anyone Alive Out There? What Moral Dilemma are offering as their swansong is a relentless forty-minute sonic gut punch, and easily their best album by a considerable margin. This is an intensely vital listen and a wholly satisfying one at that. This is the kind of album that makes you fall in love with punk all over again.
5 out of 5 high fives!