Reviewed: November 2010
Released: 2010, Nuclear Blast
Times sure have changed. Watching Paul Rachman\’s documentary, \”American Hardcore\”, again recently I was reminded of those halcyon days during the genre\’s inception when metalheads with the nerve to pitch up to certain gigs would find themselves on the receiving end of swift, violent reprisal from their slaphead counterparts. The notion of any sort of musical cross-over was considered heresy of the worst kind – that is, until landmark efforts by Agnostic Front and Suicidal Tendencies did away with such purist (read: childish) theories. Cue over two decades later and one of the pillars of the New York scene is on the gamble once again, employing \”Mr Death Metal\”, Erik Rutan, to produce their eighth album – and reaping substantial rewards in the process.
You should know that EMPIRE is about as far from being a stylistic departure as Kanye West is from giving voice to a single sensible idea. They may have taken a risk where the man in the mixing booth is concerned but the likes of \”Invigorate\” and \”All Or Nothing\” affirm that this is vintage Madball in all their uncomplicated glory. In fact, so blunt and devoid of frills is the quartet\’s onslaught that it barely necessitates exposition. Then again, for music to be this effective, it has to be more than just a couple of three-chord riffs and testosterone-addled beatdowns thrown together. Certainly every one of the Madball familia are at the very top of their game. Freddy Cricien spits every one of his lyrics with a thoroughly convincing degree of venom. Meanwhile Rutan\’s reputation as a slave-driver appears to have wrung a scintillating performance out of particularly new drummer, Igor.
But the real charm of an album like EMPIRE is the down-to-earth honesty which quite literarily bleeds out every track. When Cricien simultaneously thumbs his nose at the record industry while espousing the virtues of hardcore on \”R.A.H.C.\” (\”Let me tell you how I feel about it\” / \”In the only way I know how, I\’m gonna scream and shout it…\”) he sounds ten times more convincing to me than a hundred death and black metal bands – and this is coming from a man who can\’t go a week without listening to ONCE UPON THE CROSS. In a world where manufactured drivel is the norm, that level of sincerity is something to cherish.
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