Similarly to how Cro-Mags’ 1986 debut, The Age Of Quarrel, was an early innovator of the then-burgeoning metal-hardcore combination, this NY institution was also one of the first to bring splintered line-ups, battles (legal and physical) over moniker rights and competing finger-pointing autobiographies to the public discourse. With a court-ordered settlement between ex-members and founding nerve centre, Harley Flanagan, the bassist/vocalist is now able to remove his ju-jitsu gi and focus on the first Cro-Mags album since 2000’s Revenge.
Joined by hardcore lifers (ex-Suicidal Tendencies axe-slinger Rocky George) and mainstream musicians (drummer Garry Sullivan, who has played with the B-52’s and Bernie Worrell) alike, Flanagan has deliberately put a classic imprint on In The Beginning from the off. That the intro to lead-off track, Don’t Give In, bears striking resemblance to the band’s most infamous song, We Gotta Know, is probably no accident; neither is the album’s straightforward, two-stepping salute to the four-chord strummed simplicity of classic hardcore with rabble-rousing ragers, There Was A Time and Drag You Under.
It’s a record designed to make an old-school statement, even if elements like production clarity and chameleonic vocals ranging from streetwise bellow to misplaced baritone sometimes wash the proverbial blood from the concrete. George’s penchant for soloing over any available – or even unavailable – space carries over, his fretboard ministrations providing a careening quality to everything from the rip-roaring Don’t Talk About It and No One’s Victim to Two Hours’ hip hop cadence. Ironically, he’s most restrained during the instrumental Between Wars, hardly contributing to the orchestration and mournful air.
All in all, In The Beginning is meat’n’potatoes Cro-Mags, even if it’s definitely less fiery than one would expect after 20 years of courtroom and backroom drama. But for those who can never get enough, here’s more of it.