CRO-MAGS -2020 EP
Updated: Apr 10, 2021
SMASH UP YOUR ROOM
Iconic originators of the triumphant fusion of hardcore punk and thrash metal, few are more emblematic of NYHC than Cro-Mags, appropriately cited as forefathers of cross-over. Despite boasting a vast multi-generational influence over so many bands that followed right to the present day, few truly come close to Cro-Mags' je ne sais quoi. With chaotic and contradictory origins in street violence, homeless squats, martial arts, and Hari Krisha, their first two genre-defining albums - the monumental Age of Quarrel (1986) and Best Wishes (1989) brought a raw punk DIY ethic, street machismo and underground heavy credibility that attracted the previously mutually exclusive metal and hardcore crowds. Despite intervening decades in the wilderness, countless line-up changes and tedious lawsuits, their underground kudos remains undiminished and the band are still named-dropped by the genre's top tiers.
Neatly - and apparently serendipitously - this six song EP is 20 minutes and 20 seconds and and the 6 songs therein have a simple and reliable formula. A cool urban hip hop drum beat opens up Age of Quarantine which is uncomplicated, frantic, pent-up hardcore metal with a ripping, incendiary breakdown while the testosteronal anthemic gallop of 2020 is imbued with rampaging confrontational attitude and spit. The gargling-with-iron-fillings throaty vocals and gang chants on Life on Earth have become formulaic techniques in cross-over but when ripped out here by the band mainstay Harley Flannagan it is unpretentious, sincere and pure dead angry. The working man lyrics are non-parliamentary and as plain as the song structures such as on the pummelling, bare-knuckle riffs of Chaos in the Streets, an unambiguous commentary on the pressure cooker of US society.
Unsurprisingly this is not experimental or revolutionary but staple, gnarled metallic hardcore that is endearingly honest and re-invigorated. The formula is well-tested but the edge is not something that can be trained. It is the uglier side of the social strife and volatility in 2020. The eruption of BLM tension and political conflict rather than the taking up of sourdough baking and hygge in the suburbs. Amid one of the most acrimonious US elections in living memory, a global pandemic, and the fall-outs from BLM protests, the veterans of hardcore have produced a short broken-nosed soundtrack to frustration and discontentment that is unvarnished and hard as nails.