Album Reviews

Album Review: MADBALL – For The Cause

Nuclear Blast Records - 15 June 2018

MADBALLGrowing up, classic Heavy Metal such as Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and W.A.S.P. served as my primary education into heavy music. When entering the teenage years, there was an undeniable desire to expand my universe and discover more dimensions to the sound I loved which led to discovering Death Metal, (more) Thrash, Black Metal, and Hardcore. When I first started listening to Hardcore, it was really in its prime with bands like Biohazard, Sick of it All, and Madball setting the musical precedents which all others would come to recognize as the rule book and providing examples of what being Hardcore truly was. Taking a step back, Hardcore can be intimidating to those on the outside, but the genre is really about being real, being true to yourself, and learning from where you came from in order to be the executor of where you are going. Madball is as real as it gets to borrow a phrase from Sworn Enemy.

For those not in the know, Madball was started as a side project of the legendary Agnostic Front. Roger Miret, Agnostic Front‘s lead singer is the older brother of Madball‘s singer, Freddy Cricien. At the tender age of seven, Freddy rode along with Agnostic Front on tour learning the ropes. Madball was born in 1988, a result of Freddy taking the mic during many Agnostic Front shows. Freddy Cricien, starting this band as a twelve-year-old, had the ultimate Hardcore training in his youth. For the Cause is the follow-up to the band’s eighth LP, Hardcore Lives, which came out in 2014. Co-produced by Tim “Timebomb” Armstrong of Rancid, this new album reflects a band in touch with their past yet still hungry and looking to the future to execute their collective will.

“Smile Now Pay Later” opens the album with the sheer energy of a pissed-off Hardcore band ready to decimate all who stand in their way. Their ethos is laid out in the lyrics, “Nothing can save us but ourselves and our minds.” Following is “Rev Up,” a track in which the band flexes and shows how they achieved legendary status with Freddy’s vocals switching from melodic to angst/aggression, encouraging the listener to “Start a revolution!” The sing-along choruses echo the sounds of back in the day and also solidify the band’s mass appeal. The fifth track, “Old Fashioned” features a catchy selection of grooving riffs which when combined with the vocals, creates an end result that’s impossible to not bob your head to. The breakdown at the end is truly brutal. “Evil Ways,” the sixth track, is a blistering anthem for the mosh pit, and the breakdown absolutely slams with commentary from none other than Ice T. Ninth track, “The Fog,” features Tim from Rancid and is an instant classic Hardcore tune with plenty of sing-along parts, aggression, and truth. Steve Whale of The Business introduces the track with his distinctive British accent. The title track, twelfth in order, is an anthem of inspiration based upon recognizing the hard times and learning to appreciate the added dimensions to one’s character from such experience.

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Musically, the album is truly intense and has a strong Metal presence. The riffs are legitimately pure and sure to make Slayer proud. It’s all about the groove. Parts transition smoothly showing a mature, skilled background in songwriting. This isn’t a Hatebreed record, though, where every song is based around the breakdown. These are raging, brutal songs that exist as their own entities. The guitar sound is traditional and old school yet is still modern and hi-gain. The drums are like the backbone of the Madball beast, the keepers of intensity. The bass has a pure tone, achieved with tube goodness and rounded out with overdrive to provide the constant pulse to the music. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the band’s sound is the vocals.  Freddy Cricien’s vocals are the perfect balance between classic Hardcore brutality and melodic familiarity. To be able to span the gamut as such not only solidifies the elite status of the band but also gives a dimension to the music that expands the band’s mass appeal.

Madball have written the rulebook of Hardcore today. “For the Cause” echoes the band’s roots yet is still looking forward, consistently carving the band’s deserved place as legends. The climate of today, both socially and politically, begs for Hardcore. In a society where inequality exists to such a frightening level, Madball, and Hardcore in general serves to unite the masses. Their message is not just blind anarchy, however. At the end of the day, if anything is learned from Madball, the ultimate lesson would be to educate yourself and never stop fighting for the cause you have aligned with. Anything else would leave you as another sheep in the cogs of an empty society.

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