Reviews Cro-Mags In the Beginning

Cro-Mags

In the Beginning

New York hardcore legends Cro-Mags's waste no time getting started on their new album In the Beginning. Opener "Don't Give In" kicks in the front door and immediately begins stalking the grounds looking for revenge, relief and solace, with deep growly, cross-over guitars leading the way like a pack of rottweilers hot on a guilty man's scent. When the tempo picks up and singer Harley Flanagan begins to bark into the mic, then the real hunt is on and all bets are off. What is Flanagan after? What is he chasing down? The answer should be obvious. It's his rightful place on the throne.

Twenty years in the making, In the Beginning is an album that is righteously self-aware, reckoning with the band and Flanagan's past, while demonstrating the fact that he has not strayed from the path that he started on back when he was 14 and writing what would be Age of Quarrel in a burnt-out building in the Bronx. He's grown up since then, but he hasn't lost his sense of self. While Flanagan clearly feels assured in his place in the world and rock history, he's reached the point where he's ready to demand that others recognize him as well. What better way to do this than with a collection of songs that lifts the listener up with him? An arm under their shoulder and an encouraging word in their ear. The best way to earn respect is to give respect. When Flanagan shouts, "Don't let anyone break you, don't let anyone bring you down," he's talking to himself, but he's also talking directly to you. When a musician speaks to you like you're on their level, it demonstrates a quantum of civility and thoughtfulness on behalf of the musician that is frankly rare in the music industry, especially in punk rock. If you're listening to In the Beginning, Flanagan assumes that you've had your struggles, and that you've come through some worse for wear, but that because you are still standing, you're ready to persevere, just like him, and are therefore open to his message of self-actualization.

It's nice to have a pep-talk now and then, and sure hardcore music is awesome for that sort of thing, but you're probably wondering how the music on In the Beginning is. Well if it didn't fucking rule, would I have written this review? Fuck no. After the ripping thrash opener "Don't Give In," the album rolls and leaps into the blender-brawl of "Drag You Under" and the beef-settling, headstone-carving, doom-dispensing, thrash-guitar-melee "No One's Victim." On "From the Grave" sounds like he's showjumping a chopper straight out of hell with flexing, serrated grooves, and a screaming guitar solo in the outro from ex-Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell. Meditative passages like the instrument "Between Wars" and the gothic-folk resonance of "The Final Test" add some much-needed breathing room to the punishing proceedings, while the plodding, sample-heavy "Two Hours" feels like it could have been a vestigial appendage, torn from the back of Body Count's most recent album Carnivore. There is even a little bit of Deftones inspired nightmare on wax, molded to the regret permeated "No Turning Back" and it feels as forceful as it does honest.

It's awesome to see bands like Cro-Mags dropping records this devastating so late in their careers. When the band was at their peak back in the late '80s there was a concerted effort to malign bands with their background and style by the music press and taste-makers of the day. It's didn't work thought and Cro-mags inspired many of the same bands that these same industry sycophants would go on to make household names within the proceeding decade, including Foo Fighters and Green Day, as well as countless others who are actually good. There is some legal and interpersonal drama surrounding this album release, but unless you're a lawyer or a former member of the band, none of this should concern you (but if you are curious, you can catch up here). If you are new to the band, this is an excellent place to start. If you are a longtime fan, In the Beginning is everything you'd want from the Cro-mags and more. In the Beginning is the start of a new chapter in the band's career, and the book they're writing is already shaping up to be a best-seller.

7.5 / 10Mick R.
See also

Mick is always writing about something he's heard. Possibly even something you'd like. You can read his stuff over at I Thought I Heard a Sound Blog.

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