I recently had the opportunity to check out The Godfathers of Hardcore, a documentary about NYHC legends Agnostic Front focusing on the lives of vocalist Roger Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma. Of course, you can’t talk about Agnostic Front without also talking about Madball, the band fronted by Miret’s younger half-brother Freddie Cricien, which began back in 1988 with a then twelve-year-old Cricien being backed by the members of Agnostic Front.
Watching the film reignited my appreciation for New York hardcore, which in turn prompted me to check back in with both bands; the last time I’d heard Madball in particular was 2007’s tough-as-nails Infiltrate the System. As it happens, the band celebrated its 30th year of existence in 2018 by releasing their ninth album For the Cause and I’m pleased to say that it’s another solid addition to Madball’s genre-defining catalog.
For the Cause surprises right off the bat by being one of the catchiest and most musical albums in Madball’s discography; songs like “Rev Up” and “Freight Train” wouldn’t be terribly out of place on modern rock radio. That isn’t to say that Madball have sold out in any way, only that they’ve opted to stretch out and experiment with their sound a bit while remaining hardcore through and through; there’s no shortage of crushing, classic NYHC-style tracks such as “Smile Now Pay Later” “Old Fashioned” and “Es Tu Vida.”
The album is also quite diverse, featuring a vicious vocal cameo from legendary rapper/Body Count frontman Ice-T on “Evil Ways,” while Rancid vocalist/guitarist Tim Armstrong (billed here as Tim Timebomb) lends his pipes to “The Fog,” giving the song a more traditional punk rock feel. Armstrong also produced the album, while mixing and mastering duties were handled by the omnipresent Tue Madsen (Aborted, Dark Tranquility, Cataract, Kataklysm, The Haunted, Meshuggah, etc… who hasn’t this guy worked with?). For the Cause doesn’t sound quite as heavy as some of their earlier releases, such as Set it Off or the aforementioned Infiltrate the System, but it’s still plenty crushing and the songs benefit greatly from the loud, crystal clear production scheme.
In spite of the album’s diverse songwriting and sometimes surprising tweaks to the formula, Cricien and Co. still remain true to the ideals that the band was built on three decades ago. Madball are now and forever one of NY’s finest standard-bearers for pulverizing metallic hardcore, and For the Cause is your most recent not-so-friendly reminder.