Saturday, November 21, 2009
Old School Classics: CRO-MAGS "Age of Quarrel" - Part 1
Welcome to Take Your Shot webzine's new section, where we will be reviewing old(er), classic old school records that made an impact and deserve to be heard by EVERYONE! All kinds of people will be reviewing all kinds of stuff, so feel free if you want to send a review of your own favorite Hardcore or Hip Hop old school classic. OK, so we know some of these records are "too" classic, but this stuff is fun to write man, and basically we just want to bring a few old school gems back to the spotlight. So Let's Go!
What better place to start than the Cro-Mags seminal Age of Quarrel, a Hardcore record that still influences the genre and rocks hard some 23 years after its release. We could easily argue that this album is the pinnacle of Hardcore Music, when it was fresh, angry, and intimidating. Hardcore bands all over the world site The Cro-Mags as one of their main influences, and you can still hear the sound created in Age of Quarrel everywhere today. As Danny from North Side Kings put it in Take Your Shot #1, "anyone who doesn't recognize this sound, should get a brick smashed in their face"!
The album kicks in with We Gotta Know, and Mackie Jaysons super-phat drumbeat clocking in with the full-drive guitar&bass distortion. It's definitely one of the strongest intros ever in HC, the type that forces you to press "repeat" 4 or 5 times, and gets the wannabe bands copying... Then when the mid-tempo intro stops, it's time for war, my friend, and about half an hour of non-stop, circle-pit, frantic Hardcore music!
Now imagine it's 1986 and the heaviest/fastest band on the planet is... Wait a minute, really--who!? On the Metal side there are the likes of Venom, Slayer, Bathory, Sodom etc. On the Punk/Hardcore side there is definitely the UK Discharge sound and Agnosic Front with their Victim In Pain masterpiece. And now, with this album, HARDCORE is truly established: it is separated from Punk (because it's waaaay faster/heavier), and set apart from Metal (because there is no f*cking theatrical interplay involved): Just a no-frills, in-your-face street sound. Of course: That's the sound of the Cro-Mags!
Musically the album is like a ten-ton hammer landing on your head, but lyrically, it is divided in two separate parts: the "Fuck you, we are the Cro-Mags and we're gonna punch your lights out" side (Street Justice, Hard Times, Survival of The Streets); And there is the other side of the coin, which is the Hare-Krishna inspired, spiritual identity of the Cro-Mags (that also inspired thousands of others in turn). Songs like Seekers of the Truth and We Gotta know are classic examples of Bhagavad-Gita mentality. Even the very title of the album is drawn from Hindu philosophy: "Age of Quarrel" refers to "Kali Yuga", a Hindu term that means "Times of Degeneration". Srila Prabupada, inventor of the Hare Krishna movement, often used the term Age of Quarrel in his public speeches.
Back in 1986, it must have been shocking for the scene (and the music world in general) to encounter a bunch of tough, tattooed NY kids doing this totally "in-your-face" thing with no compromise! Age of Quarrel brought so much into the world of music and has become that much of a classic, that it transcends the boundaries of Hardcore and can be found in all kinds of extreme music fans' record collections. The specific characters that made up the Cro-Mags are the very essence of the Cro-Mags legend: the people behind the massive wall of noise and hard-ass attitude. People like Harley Flanagan and John Joseph, as well as Mackie Jayson and Parris Mayhew to a lesser extent, are Hardcore icons that have influenced everything as we know it in Hardcore today. But their individuality also sparked a war between them, a war that has gone on for years and years, and has created so many other projects, influential bands, professional musicians, bookwriters etc. But that's just something that will have to be continued another time, in another article!