Cro-Mags – 2020 (Arising Empire)

Since gaining the rights to the Cro-Mags name, its iconic frontman Harley Flanagan has been a very busy bee indeed. The 2020 E.P marks the bands fourth release in an 18-month period and so far, Flanagan has largely done nothing to harm the image of one of hardcore’s most influential bands.

Clearly New York’s original hardcore kid has spent large parts of this year with a bass guitar in his hand and although the band is very much Harley’s baby, he has surrounded himself with an impressive array of musicians. None more so than ex Suicidal Tendencies shredder Rocky George, whose signature guitar style has been at the forefront of recent releases, making Cro-Mags 2020 a force to contend with.

Looking at the track names alone, you can see that this is going to be Harley’s take on the nightmare that is 2020, in musical form. We launch into Age Of Quarantine a clever play on the name of their untouchable debut album Age Of Quarrel, but can it match anything from that legendary album. The answer is of course no, nothing can, but it’s a great track, nonetheless. A brooding bass line breaks down into a classic thrasher, with George’s unmistakeable lead guitar peppered throughout.

The E. P’s title track is very representative of the modern Cro-Mags with dramatic guitars and pounding drums providing a terrifying soundtrack for 2020. It’s hardcore by numbers and a bit of a throw away track in all honesty.

The Cro-Mags have always worn their Bad Brains influences on their sleeves and Violence and Destruction opens with a minutes worth of laid back reggae before crashing into another thrashy affair, which for some inexplicable reason, Harley has tried to sing over. Another dud.

Thankfully normal service is resumed with the violent delivery of Chaos In The Streets, a track that has classic Mags written all over it. Sadly, this does not continue, and final track Cro-Fusion is nothing more than a jam track and while it may have guitar and bass nerds salivating, bares little resemblance to the Cro-Mags.

It would seen that every single musical idea that Flanagan has of late, must be recorded and put out as Cro-Mags material. It could even be a coping mechanism for these strange times. And if so, that’s okay. But Harley is clearly an awesome song writer and rather than rush release music, he would be better served collecting his best ideas for a while and put out music worthy of the Cro-Mags moniker. 2020 shows the odd touch of greatness, but ultimately falls very short of what is expected of a Cro-Mags release… Chris Andrews

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