Cro-Mags – “In The Beginning” (Arising Empire / Mission Two Entertainment)
Battle Helm Rating
Born out of the violence and poverty of Manhattan’s Lower East Side slums in the late 70s, Harley Flanagan went on the form one of the greatest bands in hardcore punk history – the Cro-Mags. Legendary for their gigs as well as offstage exploits, the history of the band has been well documented over the years through biographies as well as occasional altercations between the members themselves. Setting the schisms legally in 2019, Flanagan, now in his early 50s, was free to concentrate once again on his one true musical love. Recruiting all-stars like Rocky George (Suicidal Tendencies, Fishbone) and former Cro-Mags members Gabby Abularach (who played on “Alpha Omega” (1992) and “Near Death Experience” (1993)) and Garry “G-Man” Sullivan (who drummed on “Final Quarrel – Live At CBGB 2001” and played in Harley’s War), Flanagan has been rabid in this return and thankfully pumping all his hate into the music. It was amply evidenced by the band’s COVID live concert back in March proving that this iconic brute with a brain was once again upon us! Cathartic for many reasons, “In The Beginning” is 13 tracks, as one might expect, of blistering old school New York hardcore going back to 1986’s “The Age Of Quarrel” album, albeit tastefully fanned by the fumes of Motörhead and spirited by the serenity of Hare Krishna – wow. Followers of Flanagan will no doubt be familiar with some of the tracks, having been issued last year through EPs like “Don’t Give In” and “From The Grave”, while the track ‘The Final Test’ was given away as a free download after the live stream that was viewed over 100,000 times, receiving coverage from the mainstream press including CNN. Reflecting his tumultuous life, ‘One Bad Decision’ has a strong Motörhead sound through its punk / metal beat, twin raw guitars and an absolutely monster groove that Flanagan capitalises on through his rough n ready roar – although ending unpredictably with temple wailing at the end – superb. Chugging in thickly through the dense mix of guitars and heavy bass, not forgetting “G-Mans” pistoning beats, is ‘Don’t Talk About It’ that simply oozes street attitude through its punk riffs and Flanagan’s gruff bite of ‘..fucker..’ before a fiddle with street noise closes the song off. Ending in typically raucous fashion, ‘What You Believed’ sees plenty of guitar breaks from Rocky George’s funky wailings to the flaming punk rock ‘n’ roll of Abularach, while Flanagan and “G-Man” propel the beat furiously, albeit to another pumping groove that’s hard to resist. Indeed, it’s all pretty intense just as you would expect being reflective of the incredible life of one Harley Flanagan!