The story of Madball is an invaluable piece of history within the New York hardcore scene, both in highlighting its ethos of communality and serving as a pretty unique tale in its own right. Essentially it began as an offshoot of Agnostic Front when frontman Roger Miret would allow his twelve-year-old half-brother Freddy Cricien perform vocals at the band’s shows, eventually spawning into a vehicle to perform unused Agnostic Front songs before blossoming into an independent act. Thirty years later, Madball are viewed in the same bubble as so many other NYHC acts – that being influential in their own genre but seldom breaking out anywhere else – but they’re evidently still going strong.
Just take For The Cause for as strong as piece of evidence as any, with Madball playing to their strengths but with a crispness that makes it feel as though this could be the most vital new hardcore band in the world. Those strengths may have been well-documented over the years – a crushing sense of groove; seamless hip-hop flows; the now-customary Spanish track – but there’s not a moment wasted here, and a fat-free presentation like this pushes Madball far from the limited expectations of hardcore’s old guard to simply an excellent new album.
And really, all that a Madball album needs to succeed is weight and aggression, and For The Cause has both in spades. A song like Freight Train is absolutely relentless in how it surges along, while Jorge Guerra’s seismic low end on Lone Wolf and Es Tu Vida lays down a crushing foundation for Cricien’s vein-bulging anger to ride across. Of course, with this being a hardcore album in the purest sense of the term, that was always going to be the case, but For The Cause has such a deft control of this that it’s almost melodic and punk-tinged, like in the stomp of Smile Now Pay Later and Damaged Goods. The opportunity to be a bit more unhinged is still there though, and when Ice-T arrives on Evil Ways to completely go off the rails, it’s the sort of glorious moment that bands like this fail to capture anymore, yet Madball revel in it, just like with the dub outro of the title track that feels totally out of place, but works all the same.
And at the end of the day, it’s preferable that Madball continue to give the same passion as always than push out a new album every couple of years with the soul stripped out, even if both of those options don’t account for much change in the overall sound. But when the result is as potent and electrifying as For The Cause, that hardly matters, especially when Madball are surging ahead with the vigour of a band a fraction of their age. Where so many of their contemporaries have faltered over time, Madball continue to bear the gold standard for how it should be done.
For fans of: Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, H2O
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘For The Cause’ by Madball is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.