Freddy Cricien truly is, and always has been, hardcore for life. When he was just seven years old, he began touring with his older half-brother’s band, none other than the pioneering underground band AGNOSTIC FRONT. The brothers are nothing short of hardcore royalty. The seeds for MADBALL were essentially planted when brother Roger Miret would sometimes pass off the mic to Cricien during their shows. In the beginning, MADBALL was essentially the members of AGNOSTIC FRONT standing as the backing band for Cricien, who, at that time, was just a 12-year-old boy. The ensemble’s first EP, in fact, 1989’s “Ball of Destruction”, was a collection of unused AGNOSTIC FRONT songs and covers.
The band has been in the public eye for nearly a quarter of a century, but legendary hardcore band MADBALL has actually been around for 30 years. Cricien has been the only constant member since the beginning, though he has been accompanied by bassist Jorge “Hoya Roc” Guerra since its debut, and longtime player, drummer Mike Justian (THE RED CHORD, UNEARTH, TRAP THEM, BACKSTABBERS INC. , CANDY STRIPER DEATH ORGY) since 2011, and ““For The Cause” sees the return of nineties guitarist Matt Henderson. Regardless of external factors and trends, MADBALL has essentially stayed the course. And with “For The Cause”, it remains true to NYHC in terms of sound, attitude and delivery.
The new album, the unit’s ninth full-length overall, is a continuation of its tried-and-tested formula. If an engine is running just fine, why throw a wrench in it? Case in point: MADBALL. The 13 tracks on hand represent archetypal NYHC that is concise, energetic and burly. There are gang vocals, especially prominent during choruses which augment the overall anthemic feel. A simmering, tom-heavy drum beat opens up the introductory song, “Smile Now Pay Later”, in suitably dramatic fashion, a perfect way to start a bare-knuckled hardcore record. This initial track entails a perfect balance of groove, swing and cutthroat aggression, and it climaxes with a massive breakdown that almost instantly brings visions of a pit. Following tracks “Rev Up” and “Freight Train” are some of the most pop-like, in terms of catchiness and accessibility, songs of the group’s career. To be clear, they aren’t pop per se, and they don’t at all seem tailored as a cash grab. The soungs just happen to be ridiculously catchy within the context of hardcore.
Archetypal hardcore remains the core throughout, yet MADBALL‘s diverse arsenal tastefully colors the canvas as well. Among several guests on the album, ICE T stands out the most with his biting performance on “Evil Ways”. His rapping is thoroughly enjoyable and serves to further broaden the scope of “For The Cause”. Cricien, who has even released hip hop music as a solo artist, regularly allows his rap influence to affect his vocal delivery. Elsewhere, the biting, punchy delivery of “Es Tu Vida”‘s Spanish lyrics definitely demands your attention. And the title track’s bombast abruptly subsides in place of the sizzling sound of vinyl that bridges the previous hardcore barrage with a concluding, soothing female-fronted reggae groove. This collection of styles and quirks help keep everything interesting and fresh throughout.
Hardcore lyrics are regularly derided for being bogged down by tropes and platitudes. But when Cricien speaks his mind, there has always been a clear sense that he means it. His words are meaningful and direct. As an aging musician, it’s clear that he has always been authentic. Hardcore is the only life he’s ever known, in fact. He wasn’t even a teenager when the band began. “For The Cause” is yet another shining example proving that Cricien and MADBALL are kings of hardcore.