There was a time when the Cro-Mags were the greatest band on earth. High-octane punk bombast wrapped in a vicious metallic riffage, the Cro-Mags weren't only New York's most important hardcore band, they were a way of life. Frighteningly fearless and fatally frenetic, tattooed and down for life, they broke the sonic and cultural barriers in the highly stratified music world. For those of you unfamiliar with underground rock history suffice it to say that every New-Jack corporate punk-metal crossover band owes its musical livelihood to the path blazed by these musical marauders. Most "upstart" rock acts talk tough; these motherfuckers would rip out your spleens if you started up with 'em.
The Cro-Mags' story starts with founding member and legendary New York skin Harley Frances Flanagan who earned his stripes as the ten-year-old Keith Moon-like whiz kid drummer behind The Stimulators-seminal heroes of the burgeoning Big Apple punk scene. Stifled by his dire power-pop musical situation, Harley felt the urge to step out on his own. Influenced by the passion and power of The Bad Brains' Darryl Jennifer and amped on the speed-freak metal fury of Motorhead's immortal Lemmy Kilmister, Harley teamed up with uptown Axe Assassin Parris Mitchell Mayhew to create the heaviest fucking band ever-The Cro-Mags. Unleashing neanderthal primal urge and strongly enhanced by state-of-the-art thunderous musical synchronization, the band's first practices in January '82 featured then Bad Brains manager Dave Hahn on drums and vocalist Eric Casanova.
After a few years as New York Hardcore Matinee scene stalwarts and vilified East Village wolfpack, the band, with Flanagan's crazy pal, Navy Jet and Bad Brains roadie John Joseph "Bloodclot" McGeown assuming vocal duties, and ex-Frontline drummer Mackie Jayson, documented it's sonic fury in November '84. With producers/engineers Jerry and Tim Williams they created a self-financed 13-track demo (which later became a popular international bootleg item). After the '85 addition of second guitarist Doug Holland of Kraut Fame, the Cro-Mags eventually inked with the Profile distributed Rock Hotel label. The band's '86 debut album, The Age Of Quarrel, was a benchmark release. From the opening crunch of "We Gotta Know" and "World Peace" to the explosive expanse of "Survival Of The Streets" and "Seekers Of The Truth", to the furious finale of "Don't tread on me" and "Signs Of The Times" this studio opus immediately established the Cro-Mags as one of the first hardcore outfits to achieve serious metal credibility without the slightest scent of sell-out or hairspray. Highlighted by major league tours with Motorhead, Megadeth, GBH and Venom, the future looked incredibly bright for the Cro-Mags.
A long and ugly battle for the band's spotlight (complicated by numerous business and personal problems) led to "Bloodclot's" departure before the recording of the Cro-Mags' second proper release, 1989's primal classic "Best Wishes". With Mackie off to join his pals in Urban Blight and then the Bad Brains-replaced by ex-Murphy's Law skinsman Petey Hines-Harley doubled on vocal duties to create one of the finest turn-of-the-decade crossover aural blasts. Featuring tracks like the brutal "Death Camps", "Days of Confusion" and "Crush the Demoniac", Best Wishes proved that even a three-year layoff couldn't stop this ferocious machine.
The Cro-Mags' Hare Krishna connection came from vocalist John Joseph. After his numerous visits to the Krishna temple on Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn, "Bloodclot" began speaking the word by handing out leaflets to the hardcore community, convinced of the numerous parallels in their alternative lifestyles-vegaterianism, anti-materialism and political pacification. Harley soon joined the fold and became a fellow devotee of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. If there was a major dichotomy about the Cro-Mags, it was the juxtaposition of their calm, Krishna-bred sensibilities and that violent vibe Cro-Mags fans loved so much. Spritual discipline was initially an unifying factor, but individual inabilities to meet those religious expectations ultimately contributed to the band's demise. Ultimately, the Cro-Mags were their own worst enemies. Because the were living embodiments of punk attitude, self-destruction was the only logical step.
But if you want to get to the heart of the matter, step up and take in this thunderous collection of searing anthems by pissed off punks in their prime. Originators of New York hardcore, malcontents of morbid metal, this band will always be more than just a footnote in the annals of modern rock.
Simply put, they were the first, they were the best, they were. the .