Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 15/06/2018
Genre: Hardcore Punk
It’s 2018, and US Hardcore appears to be in a healthier place than it has been for a long time. From the continuously stacked annual offerings the likes of Sound & Fury and This Is Hardcore festival deliver each year, to the ever shifting dynamic in sound and style the likes of Code Orange, Turnstile and Vein are introducing. Hardcore certainly still lives in the country it was born decades prior.
So what of the bands that laid the foundations of the genre and helped defy the soundtrack to generations of angry adolescents? Do the godfathers of hardcore need to shift their sound and move with the new wave in direction, or face being left behind? New York legends Madball emit their response quite simply in new record For The Cause. The answer is that they’ve barely changed a thing since their inception in 1988, and they aren’t about to switch things up any time soon.
Lyrically, instrumentally, sonically, it’s everything you’d expect from a Madball record if you’ve paid attention to any of their previous eight studio albums. It’s formula exists in gang vocals, break-neck power chord riffs and enough two-step beats to ignite moshpits around the globe. Melodies aren’t out of character for lead vocalist Freddy Cricien, but opening tracks ‘Smile Now Pay Later’ and ‘Rev Up’ seem to show that bigger vocal hooks have been intentionally thrown in at any given opportunity, more so than any of their other previous releases, and it works wonderfully.
For The Cause finds its biggest strength in the delivery of Cricien, with oodles of gang vocals sure to stick into your head from first listen. ‘They got the bombers, a bullet can’t save you!’ is a permanent earworm from ‘The Fog’, and the inclusion of Rancid’s Tim Armstrong (who also helped record/produce For The Cause) was such a smart move on the records most punkiest sounding song. ‘Evil Ways’ (ft. Ice T) is an absolute anthem and ‘Es Tu Vida’ proves Madball still have it in their locker to hit far harder than the youngsters with ease.
‘Stagnation is a killer!’ bellows Cricien on ‘Freight Train’, but sadly the absence of new ideas from Madball appears to be the only thing stopping For The Cause from being a truly great release. While diehards such as myself will lap this up, I can imagine a more contemporary fanbase of hardcore fans might be difficult to win over if Madball haven’t appealed to them in the past. Cherry picking the best moments on For The Cause to incorporate into their live setlist works wonders, but as a full body of work can feel a little tiresome to get through all twelve tracks in one sitting.
For The Cause is a solid place to start if you’re a newcomer to both Madball and the genre of hardcore punk in general. While the formula never strays too far from the traditional rulebook, with Madball writing jams like these, they’ll do perfectly well to keep the young bucks at bay from taking over for years to come.
Recommended Tracks: Rev Up, The Fog, Es Tu Vida