CRO-MAGS REVISITED: Alpha Omega (Century Media, 1992)

It took three years and moving to a metal label for the Cro-Mags’ third album to see the light of day. In that time, the band brought John Joseph back into the fold, although all these songs were written by Harley Flanagan, who even produced the thing. So rather than a return to their roots, this is very much a metal album—circa 1992, for what that’s worth!

“See the Signs” starts off with a thrash-oriented riff from new axman Doug Holland, before Joseph delivers an “Oh yeah!” that would make Randy Savage proud. There’s definitely a throatier rasp to his voice than on The Age of Quarrel, but I guess it’s somewhat more suited to this mid-tempo muck. “Eyes of Tomorrow” actually starts off with a turntable scratch, and comes off as a cross between Biohazard and Anthrax’s “I’m the Man”—and yes, there’s more scratching to be heard until they pick up the pace a minute and a half in, actually delivering a pretty decent thrashcore stomp. The track alternates between thrash and rap-metal once more before coming to a sudden stop.

“The Other Side of Madness” is awfully lengthy, at a shade over six minutes, the band’s attempt at a true-metal power ballad. Let’s just say it’s less Stained Class and more Trash—the Alice Cooper album, that is. But “Apocalypse Now” really pushes the patience at 8+ minutes, more of the same mid-paced dreck without much in the way of memorable riffs. Three minutes in, they pick up the pace, but it’s still pretty paint-by-numbers. Are these really the same guys who came up with The Age of Quarrel!?

I think they actually made a music video for “Paths of Perfection,” but I can’t imagine that it got much airplay, considering the song sounds like some second-rate Metal Church. “Victims” is in a very similar vein, except it contains a super-lame half-whispered verse that isn’t doing anyone any favours. And while it checks in at less than a minute and a half, “Kuruksetra” is not a return to the band’s hardcore roots, but rather some lame-ass interlude. By the time we get to half-baked closing track “Changes,” I’m left asking “Do You Even Mosh, Bro?”

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CRO-MAGS REVISITED: Best Wishes (Profile Records, 1989)

Their sophomore release would see some significant changes in the Cro-Mags camp, most notably with frontman John Joseph leaving the fold and bassist Harley Flanigan taking over vocal duties. This album also ushered in a change of sound, as the band abandoned the sub-two-minute bursts of its debut in favour of longer, 4-5 minute tracks as part of a stylistic shift towards the burgeoning thrash-metal movement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

The album fades in with a Neurosis-style drum beat as “Death Camps” kicks things off—at five-and-a-half minutes, a length previously unheard of for a Cro-Mags song. That said, it’s a pretty decent slice of late-80’s thrash, coming off as kind of a cross between DRI and Megadeth…well OK, maybe a little more Megadeth. “Days of Confusion” is more of a return to the band’s hardcore roots, a two-and-a-half minute speedster that nevertheless sounds more Nuclear Assault than Agnostic Front. “The Only One” brings things back to the five-minute mark, starting off with a slow and sombre bass intro before launching into a mid-paced thrash power ballad of sorts, the sort of stuff that Judas Priest was doing around the mid 80’s (pre-Turbo), although Harley’s certainly no Halford, and this song isn’t quite “Eat Me Alive,” either.

“Down But Not Out” picks up the pace again, this one a speedy, off-the-rails thrasher that’s much more “Freewheel Burning” than “Turdo Lover.” That said, the vocals are totally garbled on this track. Even Nuclear Assault’s John Connelly is more intelligible than this! And while I’m still wondering what exactly a demoniac is, “Crush the Demoniac” is another pretty decent slice of 80’s speed metal. “Fugitive” is more mid-80’s-style metal, this one another mid-paced number that actually reminds me a little of Di’Anno-era Maiden—y’know, before they got really good.

“Then and Now” features some tasty basswork, but otherwise gets lost in the shuffle, before “The Age of Quarrel”…wait, they put a song called “The Age of Quarrel” on this!? Sure enough, said number begins with a military drum beat, before kicking it up into another Megadeth-style thrasher with a stop-start chorus. Let’s just say it would totally outta place on the debut!

2014 CFL POWER RANKINGS: Week 5

Week Five was all about the Battle of Alberta.  The Thursday-nighter between Calgary and Edmonton lived up to its billing, going right down to the wire as the Stamps squeaked out a 26-22 win–making them the only undefeated team left in the league.  Meanwhile, with Saskatchewan’s decisive victory over the Argos, every single team in the West now has more wins than anybody out East.  Hey, we can’t have two crossover teams this year, can we?

Preseason Predictions

Last Week’s Rankings

Rankings Archive

1. Calgary Stampeders (4-0) Last Week: 2.  It wasn’t pretty, but they got the job done.  Bo Levi Mitchell went 14-for-29 for just 124 yards passing, while Jock Sanders added 86 yards on the ground, with the team down to its third RB.  But they came through on defence–and more importantly, special teams, blocking a punt for a TD and scoring another one right after stopping the Esks short on a fake punt.  The D might have given up twice as many touchdowns to Edmonton as they had all year, but they’ve still allowed 32 fewer than anyone else in the league.  And hey, defence wins championships, right? ;)

2. Edmonton Eskimos (4-1) Last Week: 1.  Alas, I can’t drop Edmonton too far after a narrow loss in the first BoA.  It wasn’t a pretty effort for either team, as turnovers proved costly–especially that turnover on downs deep in their own end.  But the Esks still have the league’s second-highest-scoring offence and second-stingiest defence…and they did beat Winnipeg pretty badly the week before.

3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (4-1) Last Week: 4.  The Bombers had lost 16 of their last 17 road games against the West Division heading into Vancouver on Friday.  But they came away with a pretty impressive win, holding the Lions to just two field goals on Geroy Simon Night.  OK, so Winnipeg didn’t find the end zone themselves until midway through the third quarter, but that Lirim Hajrullahu kid?  He can really kick the pigskin!

4. Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-2) Last Week: 6.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Riders claim a running back off waivers, stick him in the lineup, and he runs for 113 yards and 3 TDs in his debut.  OK, so I don’t think that’s ever happened until last night, but ex-Bomber Will Ford sure gave the Saskies offence a big boost over the Boatmen.  In fact, Ford had as many carries as Darian Durant had pass attempts, cuz hey, who needs to pass when they can’t stop the run?  Not sure if it’s too late, but can Ford still run for mayor…of Regina? :P

5. B.C. Lions (2-3) Last Week: 3.  Granted, B.C. did not have a very good game this week.  But neither did the entire East Division, with the exception of formerly-winless Hamilton.  And y’know what, gimme the Lions over the Tigers any day!

6. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1-3) Last Week: 9.  Though they played their home opener to a capacity crowd of just 6,500 at McMaster University, the Ti-Cats made sure each one of those 6,500 souls went home happy by notching their first win of the season.  OK, so they beat an expansion team with a 40-year-old virgin QB so inconsistent that Hamilton actually cut him…but hey, their 33-point output nearly doubled their season total (41 going into the game), so there’s that.

7. Montreal Alouettes (1-3) Last Week: 8.  That’s right, idle Montreal moves up a spot this week.  Does anybody actually wanna win the East Division?

8. Ottawa REDBLACKS!!!!! (1-3) Last Week: 5.  Now, losing 33-23 on the road wouldn’t necessarily drop a team three spots in my power rankings.  But when you lose that game to a winless team, on a college field, that’s scored just 41 points in three prior games, well, there are no moral victories here.  Shame on you, REDBLACKS!!!!!, shame on you.

9. Toronto Argonauts (1-4) Last Week: 7.  Aaaaaand with their lopsided loss to the Riders last night, Toronto is officially the worst team in the league.  Ricky Ray completed 23 passes to 11 different receivers, but if you can name more than two of them, you must be one of the 11 Argos’ season-ticket holders.  With no Chad Owens, no Dontrelle Inman and no running back to speak of, Ricky Ray’s got about as many explosive weapons as the late Saddam Hussein.  And I’d put the over-under in attendance for the team’s next home game, a Tuesday-nighter against Winnipeg, at 12,000–roughly two Ron Joyce Stadiums.  Of course, at the Rogers Centre, there’s plenty of great sections still available…

“Hey, who tricked us into going to a football game!?”

CRO-MAGS REVISITED: The Age of Quarrel (Profile Records, 1986)

The Cro-Mags’ debut actually came out on a hip-hop label, as Profile was best known for being the record peddlers that first signed Run DMC. Not sure how that connection happened, but these guys clearly took some of the Sony subsidiary’s money to throw together a music video for “We Gotta Know,” which became somewhat of a late-night staple on MTV. Of course, if you listen to the demo before this one, you’ll notice that 11 of the songs are the same, although I see they’ve omitted “Everybody’s Gonna Die,” along with the dubstep outro…

They also switched up the order a bit, most notably dropping “By Myself” all the way down to Track 10. And it’s the MTV anthem that leads things off, “We Gotta Know” coming in all slow and ominous with its extended intro before launching into a mid-paced, manic shout-along. “World Peace” and “Show You No Mercy” follow, before “Malfunction” slows things down in its usual spot. The cleaner recording certainly adds some venom to Joseph’s vocals, giving the infamous refrain to “World Peace” just a bit more bite.

“Street Justice” was not on the demo, but here the speedy, minute-30 thrasher is paired with “Survival of the Streets” to illustrate that you really didn’t wanna be hanging around the Lower East Side after dark. “Seekers of the Truth” is another slower number in the vein of “Malfunction,” though this one’s got a grittier, Motorhead feel, especially in the vocal department. “It’s the Limit” and “Hard Times” follow, before we finally get Joseph “By Myself.”

The next block of tracks seem kinda preachy if taken strictly at face value, with the steady stream of “Don’t Tread on Me,” “Face the Facts” and newbie “Do Onto Others,” the latter of which seemingly instructs us to pick people up after knocking them on their asses in the pit. Yuuuup, she’s a real rager!

“Life of My Own” provides its expected doom-and-gloom, before this one ends with “Signs of the Times,” which beats the hell outta dubstep any day! Overall, I prefer the slicker, more fleshed-out versions of this record to the rawer Before the Quarrel, but either way ya slice it, these are some classic tracks, maaaaan…

CRO-MAGS REVISITED: Before the Quarrel (independent, 1985)

So, John Joseph and co are loading up the van for a couple Canadian dates next weekend, hitting Toronto on Friday the 1st.  Me, I’ll be seeing ‘em at an all-ages afternoon matinee in Montreal the following day–cuz what’s more hardcore than that!?  I also heard they’re playing Deadmonton on the 3rd.  Man, even if the MTL gig’s a matinee, I’m not sure you can drive from there to Edmonton in a day.  I mean, it’s such a long trip, they could listen to all their albums half-a-dozen times each!  Hey, now there’s an idea… ;)

OK, so I don’t think the band actually had the foresight to call their demo EP Before the Quarrel. My guess is someone tacked on that title when it was reissued, posthumously, at the dawn of the new millennium. But the raw, punk/crossover feel that defined The Age of Quarrel is certainly present here—to the point where some elitists even prefer this one to the band’s official debut.

Thirteen tracks fly by in 25 minutes here, albeit not without leaving their mark. “World Peace” kicks things off in true crossover fashion, coming off as a cross between Razor and COC. And as opposed to all the anti-war outfits out there, this band’s stance is pretty clear: “World peace can’t be done/It just can’t exist!” “By Myself” picks up where its predecessor left off, another speed-punk barrage that leaves nothing (and no one) standing still; its vocal narrative somewhat recalls Rollins, albeit with an NYC sneer. And I’m not saying “Show You No Mercy” sounds like Slayer, but it’s certainly no less merciless.

“Malfunction” slows things down considerably, which is to say it’s mostly mid-paced, visions of Black Flag and even Saint Vitus dancing in my head, with John Joseph out-garbling Mike Dean in the vocal department. But “Hard Times” picks up the pace with a classic punk-rock bassline and some paper-thin kick drums. It’s paint-by-numbers hardcore, but in a good way. “Signs of the Times” doubles down on the kick drums, but adds a bit more metallic crunch, a pretty decent example of thrashcore. “Don’t Tread on Me” goes to the same barber as its predecessor, although I’d say it has a slightly better haircut, ending with an anthemic gang-vocal refrain.

“Face the Facts” is pure punk-rock fury, a driving hardcore number that has me thinking DOA mixed with just a bit of British Steel-era Priest. “It’s the Limit” throws some crazy drumming into the mix for what might be the fastest song intro on here, a real rager that takes things into moshpit territory. “Life of My Own” kicks off with a wicked, winding bassline, containing some killer breakdowns in its slo-mo chorus. Then “Survival of the Streets” takes us to the viciousness of the Bronx zoo, a crazy-fast number that’ll mug ya before asking directions.

“Everybody’s Gonna Die” sounds like a good way to end things, although some mopey Type O Negative number, this is not. Razor or Discharge is more its speed, perhaps some combination of the two. But the album actually ends with one minute of dubstep—I fuckin’ shit ya not!

Man, tonight’s Battle of Alberta has all the makings of… a Late-July Classic!

Although they’ve redeemed internet commentors with broken caps-lock keys everywhere, the Ottawa REDBLACKS!!!!! threw the CFL schedule out of whack upon rejoining the league this season.  While teams previously played each divisional opponent three or four times, they now face off no more than twice (nine-team league, 18-game schedule), with just two select foes on the docket a third time.  Fortunately for football fans in Canada’s economic engine, the league had the foresight to schedule an additional matchup between its two strongest teams…as at Week Five.

Considering that the Stamps won the West last season, their 3-0 start isn’t much of a surprise.  That said, they’ve done so with a starting quarterback who was third on the depth chart in 2013–and largely without Canada’s greatest athlete, RB Jon Cornish, who’s out until the Labour Day rematch with a cheap-shot concussion.  Lemme just say, Imma be in Montreal next weekend, and if I happen to see Kyries Hebert, Imma go all Kyries Hebert on his azz!

On the other hand, not even the most die-hard Deadmonton fan, who bleeds green and poops gold (his name is Larry), would’ve predicted a 4-0 start after a 4-14 finish last season.  Granted, the Eskies lost several close games down the stretch while Mike Riley put up some big numbers.  But what’s even more surprising is that they’ve mostly done it with defence this year, allowing the second-fewest points in the league thus far, only behind…the Calgary Stampeders.

Calgary’s defence has been so stifling that they’ve given up just one touchdown all season–and it was on a last-second, penalty-aided, garbage-time drive by Montreal that came after Hebert put his life in future jeopardy with that big-time illegal hit.  The problem is that the Stamps haven’t been nearly as successful on offence, owing to the fact that they’re without the all-time greatest Canadian rusher of all time.  Hell, with just 73 points to date, Calgary would just barely be the second-highest-scoring team in the CFL Least Division–as it stands, only last-place Saskatchewan has put up fewer points out West.

Now, when I first heard that Jonny MOP would be back for the Edmonton game, I thought they meant this Edmonton game, not the third meeting of the season.  But nevertheless, if there’s one guy who knows how to win games, it’s the Texas Gunslinger, Bo Levi Mitchell, who’s looking to tie a CFL record by starting his career 7-0.  Mike Reilly, even after his hot start, is just 9-15 as a starter…and one of those wins actually came against Edmonton.  But since the Stamps defence only gives up 10 points a game, I’m gonna go with Calgary 15, Edmonton 9.  Put that in your pipeline and frack it!

 

The Bridge is back!

Much like when I first stumbled across this FX drama, I was flipping through the TV listings of a Wednesday a couple weeks back when I went “Holy shit, Season Two of The Bridge starts tonight!” I quite enjoyed the first season’s Bon Cop, Bad Cop dynamic, albeit with two characters who are somewhat lacking in moral judgement.  But I will say it lost me towards the end with the whole plot twist about a vengeful ex-cop turned cop-killer/substitute-teacher impersonator with a hate-on for Inspector Ruiz.  That’s where it went from gritty crime drama to less-than-believable Hollywood yarn, if you ask me.  But Season Two’s already shaping up to be quite interesting…

*SPOILER ALERT, YO!*

For one thing, it’s made clear within the first couple episodes that while Ruiz (played by Demian Bichir) and Sonya Cross (Diane Kruger) will be working together again, they aren’t exactly on the same side.  And while we’re not quite sure what happened to psycho killer Kenneth Hastings, it’s now Ruiz who’s motivated by revenge.  I’m still not sure where this new tattooed Mexican lady who seduces teenage boys and stabs them in storage lockers fits into the whole cartel hierarchy yet, but I suspect we’ll soon find out.  Here’s hoping that she‘s not a left-for-dead FBI agent, too!

Of course, we still haven’t even gotten into the tunnel that runs underneath that rich cougar’s farmland, or the whole bridge murder that gave the show its namesake.  Suffice to say that all is not well in Old El Paso…

(Looks like someone’s having chicken for dinner again!)