Cro-Mags – “2020” EP (Mission Two Entertainment)
Battle Helm Rating
As it draws to a close, 2020 will certainly be a year to remember. For many, the scale of the pandemic has been almost too much to bear, while others have found a strength, perhaps an inner one hitherto unknown, to soldier on with fortitude. With their worldwide tour with Body Count stopped in its tracks as the world went into quarantine, the Cro-Mags had other ideas – namely, to pool their resources together to launch one of the first, if not the first, live quarantine show back in March. An EP would follow in June, and while other bands ground to a halt and complained, Harley Flanagan, a man no stranger to adversity having grown up in NYC’s Lower East Side, took in the world around him – and stared it right back in the face. “2020” speaks for itself, with the album packaging, in the words of the NYHC icon ‘…meant to look like a calendar – 7 squares across, with one picture from 2020 per day. Inside the booklet there are 12 pictures, one for each month of 2020; and the back is a shot of something I have never seen before in my life – a totally empty New York City. Corona Virus, quarantine, empty streets, brutality, burning buildings, violence and destruction: 2020 is a year none of us will ever forget…’. Indeed, as G-Man’s militaristic snare provides the beat to Flanagan’s growling bass, you feel the menace building through the thick guitars of Joseph Affe (M.O.D, Maximum Penalty, Harley’s War) and legendary Rocky George before their feedback wail unleashes a storm of street stomping aggression led by Flanagan’s bulldog bark before slowing it down a tad if only to make the grooves even heavier. I guess it’s not unlike being mugged, except that you enjoy it! ‘Violence And Destruction’ throws an initial curve ball in its reggae beginnings but just when you’re getting lulled, explodes in savage contrast just like the Bad Brains did back in their day, and even if there is a poignant message in Flanagan’s singing almost appealing to humanity’s better side in respecting each other’s opinions, the stone hard rhythm, driving riffs and wailing melodies add an epic immensity to not lose sight of the gravity of the situation. Heavy stuff indeed. Flailing in like an old school moshpit, ‘Chaos In The Streets’ is about mob violence as heard through the mayhem of frantic beats and screaming guitars, yet equally speaking of self-defence through its epic riffs, and not in the least, the defiant roars from Flanagan, a man who refuses to be beaten down and instead, comes out fighting each and every time. Goddamn, I love this guy!