REVIEW: MADBALL – “For The Cause”
Dawn 'Mama Love' Brown
Established in 1988 on the heels of traditional punk and the outset of post-punk, Madball has been a driving force in not only the transition to, but the creation of what is now known as New York Hardcore. New York Hardcore is a subgenre all its own having been contrived of the frantic tone of traditional punk combined with the unbridled aggression picked up from life on the mean streets of New York City. Sharing the scene with the likes of Biohazard and Cro-Mags, Madball has made a name for themselves with ease. Being a direct offshoot of Agnostic Front, Madball cut their teeth in small clubs and venues as a side project of Agnostic Front when vocalist Freddy Cricien, younger half-brother of AF’s vocalist Roger Miret, took the stage at the tender age of 12. Freddy has fronted the band through many iterations and has remained the only original member throughout their 30 years of existence.
Releasing in mid-June of 2018 is Madball’s 9th studio album, ‘For the Cause’, a 13-track opus of New York Hardcore magic as only they can deliver. All 13 tracks contain key characteristics of the signature NYHC sound including multi-voice chanting choruses and an overall anthem feel. This album has great energy with some groove riffs mixed in for great effect. The lyrical content is raw yet thoughtful, aggressively poignant and in your face. The many collaborations on this record accentuate the diversity within Madball’s talent base and only prove to make the listening experience truly memorable.
The record opens strong with “Smile Now Pay Later” which opens with a drum track lead-in that flows perfectly into the first of many killer NYHC tracks. It has a brief breakdown at about the 3 minute mark that ushers in the first of many groove-type riffs that close out the song. “Rev Up” boasts a cameo appearance from Sick Jacken (Psycho Realm) laying some words about the juicebox revolution. It’s an interesting juxtaposition against the fast and hard track that follows. “Freight Train” could be the closest Madball will ever come to getting radio play. It’s got a slightly more mainstream feel than the remainder of this collection.
Next up is definitely a notable track on the album, “Tempest”. The opening line is one of the best I’ve heard, “…you’re already dead, you just don’t know it yet” which repeats throughout the song. Ice-T, of both music and TV fame, lends his expertise to “Evil Ways” bringing another perspective with antagonistic fury that fits the song like a surgical glove. “Damaged Goods” has a rap-style vocal line which is not uncommon for this subgenre of metal. Tim Timebomb (Armstrong), who also co-produced the album, lends his talents to “The Fog”, providing the spoken word intro to a rousing composition that has a lot of characteristics of the traditional punk of the late 70s. “Es Tu Vida” is another rambunctious anthem with Spanish lyrics that transcends the language barrier. “For you” has a decidedly groove vibe that stands apart from the bulk of this record.
Rounding out the album is a handful of songs following in the same vein of free-flowing NYHC. “Old Fashioned”, “Lone Wolf”, “Confessions” and the title track, “For the Cause” which is also the longest track on the record clocking in at 4 minutes, 4 seconds. It comes complete with the added crackling one would normally hear on a vinyl album, plus an odd reggae-style, ska-inspired breakdown that closes out the song.
Madball has mastered their take on New York Hardcore with flair and style. The diversity in the tracks on this album showcases the talent of the players, Freddy Cricien, Jorge Guerra, Matt Henderson and Mike Justian. Madball continues to be stalwarts in the NYHC scene and are not letting up any time soon.