Having successfully secured the Cro-Mags name after a year-long court battle with former members John Joseph and Mackie Jayson, frontman and general hardcore legend Harley Flanagan follows up last year’s From the Grave and Don’t Give In EP’s (Victory Records) with In the Beginning (Mission Two Entertainment/Arising Empire), the first full-length release from the celebrated New York act in twenty long years.
Taking the title literally, the clearly luxurious “C Squat” adorns the front cover, a notorious building situated in Manhattan’s Lower Eastside where Flanagan lived during the 1980s. Home to a plethora of different musicians, artists, and activists over the years, the infamous edifice is where Flanagan wrote most of the music which would eventually appear on the Age of Quarrel demos.
Comprising both of the aforementioned EP’s in full, the album kicks off with the triple smash of ‘Don’t Give In’ ‘Drag You Under’, and the moody ‘No-one’s Victim’, the first ‘Mags song to be accompanied by a promo video in twenty-seven years.
‘From the Grave’ follows next, a typically in-your-face affair featuring none other than Phil Campbell from Motörhead on six-string duty. The EP’s remaining tracks, ‘PTSD’ and the atmospheric six-minute, cello-infused instrumental, ‘Between Wars’, appear further into the record and work better as part of a whole than as individual cuts.
The faster-paced ‘No-one’s Coming’, ‘One Bad Decision’, ‘Don’t Talk About It’ and the crushing closer ‘What You Believed’ are all guaranteed to leave blood and broken teeth in their wake, while Flanagan shows his more experimental side with the sample-heavy ‘Two hours’, ‘The Final Test’ and ‘No Turning Back’ – all of which include clean vocals, creating a sort of Black Sabbath meets Faith No More vibe, the latter song even featuring a kids gang vocal reminiscent of ‘Solve’ by Behemoth, or an angrier ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ by Pink Floyd.
Relying on traditional influences such as Black Sabbath, Minor Threat, and Bad Brains, In the Beginning, is augmented by splashes of jazz, funk, and even classical, resulting in an uplifting, engaging, but still thoroughly fucking hostile experience.
7 / 10