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Cro-mags - In the Beginning

In the Beginning
by Mark Machlay at 04 August 2020, 4:08 AM

It’s hard to believe in this nebulously wonky time the year 2000 – the year of the y2k scare – is now 20 years ago. That’s how long it’s been since the infamous New York hardcore punk group CRO-MAGS released “Revenge”. It was then heralded as a return to the group’s hardcore roots after a string of albums that veered more into the thrash metal vein – 1989’s “Best Wishes” 1992’s “Alpha Omega” and 1993’s “Near Death Experience”. In fact, the only other album considered hardcore punk is there debut “The Age of Quarrel” in 1986. The band has seen lineup changes, breakups and copywrite controversies throughout the years but Harley Flanagan has seen the band through each and every change, being the sole trademark owner of the name of the group since the early 1990s as well as the primary songwriter and only member to appear on every album. Recently, there was a split and a rights settlement between Flanagan and previous members John Joseph and Mackie Jayson regarding the name but was settled to give Flanagan exclusive rights to the CRO-MAGS name with the other two deciding to continue with the unoriginal name of CRO-MAGS “JM”.

As if they never left, “In The Beginning” is perfect continuation of the band’s return to a more hardcore approach from their 2000 effort. The first 3 tracks off of “In The Beginning” were released on the “Don’t Give In” EP that came in December of last year and represent the strongest output on the record. But much of the anthemic, powerful, chant-like choruses are felt throughout the record, most notably on the standout “From the Grave” with an equally gritty and gripping music video to go with it. Flanagan’s vocals punctuate every track with a vigor and ferocity of a Henry Rollins mixed with the grit of fellow hardcore cohorts HATEBREED’s Jamey Jasta. Long-time guitarist Gabby Abularach lays down solid, crunchy, blistering riffs while Rocky George has returned after playing on the previous effort to provide face-melting, thrashy lead lines, adding melody and tenacity to an already solid framework. Flanagan’s bass work is really strong too as heard on the intro to “No One’s Coming”.

I was honestly surprised to hear how positive this record is. Sure there is the negatively tinged “Two Hours”, “No Turning Back”, and “One Bad Decision” but even with the darker lyrics, the anthemic quality of nearly every chorus refrain only makes me want to pump my fist in the air and get my butt to the gym and start improving myself. Flanagan’s voice conveys all the garbage that his soul has been through and has come out the other side a better man. I wasn’t familiar with his story before listening to this but he certainly conveys a message of perseverance and self-reliance that gives any man the power to pull himself by his own bootstraps and push through the BS. Especially poignant is “PTSD” in which he laments “I know I can’t undo the things that I’ve done”. It’s surprisingly touching to hear such honesty from the hardcore, rough and tumble tough guys. The music is loud, its fast, it threatens to break your nose, but if you enjoy that, and still want to dig a little deeper, the lyrics can open up a whole new world for the listener.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1. Don’t Give In
2. Drag You Under
3. No One’s Victim
4. From the Grave
5. No One’s Coming
7. The Final Test
8. One Bad Direction
9. Two Hours
10. Don’t Talk About It
11. Between Wars
12. No Turning Back
13. There was a Time
Harley Flanagan – Bass and Vocals
Gabby Abularach – Rhythm Guitar
Rocky George – Lead Guitar
Garry “G-Man” Sullivan – Drums
Record Label: Arising Empire Records


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