CRO-MAGS - Don't Give In and From The Grave (EPs)
Release dates August 2/19 (Victory Records) and December 6/19 (Arising Empire) respectively
Some nineteen years after their last full length (the underrated Revenge), Cro-Mags come storming back with not one, but two, EPs in 2019.
Most readers will already know the history of the band given its status as one of the godfathers of New York hardcore, but here's a quick overview. The 1986 debut Age of Quarrel remains one of the blueprints for the sub-genre to this day, while its more mature follow-up Best Wishes (1989) is also another highly regarded piece of NYHC recorded history. Two more full lengths followed in the early 90s, but both failed to generate the same buzz as the initial two outputs, with the band subsequently dissolving until the above-noted Revenge comeback ... only to disappear once again.
Until these two EPs, the biggest news recently out of the Cro-Mags camp has been the continuous run-ins between Age of Quarrel vocalist John Joseph and bassist Harley Flanagan (the only member to be on all of the band's recordings), both having different versions of Cro-Mags on the road at the same time. Fortunately, that has finally been resolved with Flanagan owning the name and Joseph having to tour as Cro-Mags JM.
Now we can move onto what really matters - the new music. First up we'll take in Don't Give In, which was issued in August. Containing three tracks over a compact seven minutes, Flanagan and his hired hands (including the return of Rocky George of Suicidal Tendencies fame) waste no time in grabbing a club and battering listeners over the head, enthusiastically proclaiming "We're back!". Opener 'Don't Give In' starts out slow and threatening, before a rough and tumble riff kicks in, evoking memories of the mighty 'Death Camps' opener from Best Wishes. Two short, straight-up hardcore speedballs fill out the disc, chugging ferociously with Flanagan spitting out pissed-off lyrics as if his life depends on it. Ferocious fun. (8)
Recently issued From The Grave up next. The title track continues in the same chugging mode as the concluding two tracks from the previous EP, in reality being interchangeable other than the inclusion of some lead guitar squalling from Phil Campbell (ex-Motorhead). 'PTSD' changes things up somewhat, sounding like something off of Sacred Reich's fine new disc Awakening, including a vocal that rings close to Phil Rind's delivery. Third and final track here, 'Between Wars', is a reflective instrumental track, driven by a fine drum performance, the fills being a thing of sonic beauty. (7)
So, the main message here is that all is good in the hardcore world, as we finally have a fully functioning Cro-Mags back in action. Here's hoping a full length follows in 2020.