Sunday, November 7, 2010

Old School Classics: Judge - Bringin' It Down (1989)

The story of Judge - a history of intesity, violence and regrets?

Throughout the years, Judge has gone down as one of the most intense, militant and of course influential straight edge hardcore bands of all time. For many, they are considered the most essential sXe band of the 80s, and of course, Bringin It Down is their highest point. It's right there, in 89, when the youth crew scene was starting to die down (with Ray Cappo -its emblem- turning all the kids into Krishna consciousness), and these guys were seeing it all slip through their hands. The scene they had given everything into was just turning into something else, filled with violence and tough guy attitudes, pushing fans and active participants away. Bringin It Down is a mix of all the above: provocative straight edge militance, but also an expression of sadness and regret.

Now Judge was active from '87, having released the New York Crew 7". Originally a side project of John Porcell (guitarist, Youth Of Today) and Mike 'Judge' Ferraro (one of the most imposing frontmen in HC to this very day), Judge was the heavier, more outspoken alternative to YOT. Judge went right against the positive straight edge proselytizing that went on up until then, and used a definitely more provocative stance. It's interesting because this stance is exactly what drew the hordes of kids to this hardcore phenomenon of a band called Judge, as well as their new, 'in your face' hardcore style.
Mike Judge: an intense HC personality

Musically, Bringin' It Down is also a turning of backs to the previous straight edge sound, which was all about speed and energy. Far removed from the previous bands Judge members played in (the aforementioned YOT, Side By Side, Project X, Gorilla Biscuits, Death Before Dishonor), this was one of the first metal-influenced records in straight edge. Bringin It Down is a totally solid record, with super-crunching riffs by Porcell and a solid strong rhythm section to back him up. All in all, it is a very strong mix because the metal/thrash riffs are exchanged with crazy hardcore bursts and Mike's heavy sounding (but not metal) growls, creating a unique mix.

Old school flyer from back in the day

We could say that everything with Judge was deliberate. The provocative lyrics? For sure. The metal in their sound? Absolutely. The band actually wanted to sound more like Cro-Mags and Leeway by recording in the same studio as them. Nothing was left to chance in a band like Judge. I think that they are actually responsible for the creation of the tough-guy image in hardcore as we know it (their version is much closer to tough-guys in hardcore today, in contrast to to Agnostic Front's and Cro-Mags' skinhead tough-guy images). For me, they are also responsible for the newer, 90s straight edge (and not only edge) hardcore sound which dominated the scene, all the way from Earth Crisis to Fury of V.

Always wreckin' the pit

So how does Bringin It Down go down today? It's hard to say because I've personally owned the record for more than 10 years. But when I got this record at 19 or whatever, it sounded like nothing I expected; too much metal for sure, and in a sense too familiar with the metal/hc I grew up with in the 90s. Nowadays, I can surely recognize the impact Judge had on modern hardcore. Definitely a band to look into and study if you're into hardcore and its history. Below you can also watch the Revelation Records' Judge documentary (which never officially came out); it is 17 minutes of nothing but interesting hardcore stories about a band with a great impact. Get to know the story behind Judge, why all the violence around them, the militant attitudes, and about intriguing 80s HC personalities like Jimmy Yu, their early kung-fu buddhist bassist!

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