Reviews Wrecking Crew Balance of Terror (Reissue)

Wrecking Crew

Balance of Terror (Reissue)

Over the past decade or so “toughguy” hardcore has gotten more obnoxious by the second, but one of the bands that spawned this shitstorm, Madball, always had at least one thing going for them. This special ingredient was the combination of the pure catchiness of their riffs and their surprisingly tight sense of rhythm. Even though I am enough of a hardcore purist that I generally won’t touch anything from after 1986, Madball is a much, much more enjoyable listen than the tripe that masquerades as hardcore in these times.

But what does Madball even have to do with Wrecking Crew? The connection I’m trying to make is that Madball’s sound goes back farther than the casual hardcore fan may realize. Although Wrecking Crew was a Boston band, the beginnings of this more groovy style of hardcore can be heard in their music and also the music of their contemporaries Agnostic Front and Slapshot.

In the void that followed the collapse of the legendary early-to-mid ‘80s Boston scene, a second generation began to surface in the late ‘80s. Taking more cues from Discharge and Motörhead than the bands that preceded them earlier in the decade, the second generation of Boston hardcore was spearheaded by Wrecking Crew. Wrecking Crew’s sound is reminiscent of crossover thrash minus the cheesy solos, and mixed with the fast parts are mid-paced palm-muted parts written long before the word “breakdown” entered the hardcore vocabulary. Metallic without having any blatant metal parts, Wrecking Crew pioneered a new sound, the reverberations of which somehow is detectable even in today’s hardcore.

The vocals are a little monotonous, but what business do I have criticizing a band that broke up over ten years ago? The lyrics are pretty typical hardcore stuff: personal politics and condemnations of world events. These topics were tired before Wrecking Crew was even around, so I can’t hold that against them.

Balance of Terror is a re-issue of a long out-of-print album from 1988. It also includes two bonus tracks recorded in 1989 (one of which is a cover of “My Mind’s Diseased” by Battalion of Saints). I have a lot of respect for trailblazers, so I definitely feel the legacy of Wrecking Crew is worth recognizing. Yet, as a music listener, I also have to note that this isn’t that exciting to listen to, mostly because of the production. Understand that I am all for lo-fi production values, but whereas it gave early ‘80s hardcore a certain urgency, with bands like this it sucks the life out of the riffs. Not only does Wrecking Crew have a lot in common with Agnostic Front musically, the general feel of this record reminds me a lot of Agnostic Front’s earlier recordings- kind of lifeless and one-dimensional. If this tells me one thing it’s that this was a scene that relied heavily on live performances. I’ll bet these songs sounded much better in a live setting. That said, there are some pretty catchy riffs on here.

I would say this album is worth checking out for fans of other late ‘80s/early ‘90s hardcore bands like Slapshot and Agnostic Front. Also, anyone particularly interested in the progression of the Boston scene might want to have it in their collection. The liner notes, for example, are pretty insightful by giving an in-depth history of both the band and the scene it was involved in.

7.5 / 10Tyler
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I Scream

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