For Fans Of
This album can perhaps be summarised by the lyrics from the opening track “Invigorate” which declare that Madball doesn’t “need your stories, your headlines”. Maintaining absolute integrity since their inception in 1988, Madball have never had anything to prove and this is only confirmed by their eighth studio album, the aptly titled “Empire”. Running with the theme set by 2005’s acclaimed record “Legacy”, “Empire” confidently proclaims Madball’s enduring position at the forefront of the international hardcore pack. Getting this out up front, “Empire” does not compare to classics like “Set It Off”, “Hold It Down” or “Legacy”. Thankfully however, it is a vast improvement on 2007’s lacklustre offering “Infiltrate The System”. The songs are a bit shorter, a bit punchier and fortunately avoid political themes best left for other bands.
As expected “Empire” is jam-packed with this band’s signature aggression and heaviness that we all know and love. The opener “Invigorate” kicks off the album on a strong note, boasting chugging riffs and Freddy Madball’s uniquely gangsta vocals. The lyrics of “Timeless” again rightfully affirm the band’s undying appeal and integrity, the song featuring a massive metallic breakdown typical of those which have become commonplace on recent Madball albums. “All Or Nothing” is another standard hardcore anthem, uncharacteristically including a solo of sorts which is reminiscent of the thrashy guitar musings of Leeway. Freddy continues the theme of the band’s legacy with “The Glory Years”, reflecting on times past and ordering the audience to “live for now”. The hook for the title track “Empire” is one of the toughest riffs on the record, culminating in a relentless floorpunch breakdown.
“Shatterproof” is a definite highlight, featuring guest vocals from fellow NYHC veteran and Freddy’s older half-brother, Agnostic Front’s own Roger Miret. As always there are tracks with Freddy’s iconic Spanish vocals, “Con Fuerza” and “Spider’s Web” filling the quota on “Empire”. “R.A.H.C” (standing for “real American hardcore”) offers a scathing “fuck you” to cynics that have tried to pronounce hardcore dead. If this track were released by pretty much any other band it would be borderline cringe material, but Madball undoubtedly pull it off as a sick track. “Dark Horse” is another strong track, yet again offering a pretty standard Madball song structure with tough riffs and an aggressive breakdown which fades out. While there are some solid tough tracks on this record, Madball arguably take the cheesy aggression a little too far with tracks like “Danger Zone”, “Tough Guy” and “Hurt You”. “Hurt You” features a strange mafia movie sample, before descending into a pretty cool, short, vitriolic punk-infused track.
“Empire” is the album that should be expected from Madball at this point in their career. While certainly not innovative or groundbreaking, this record if nothing else asserts the band’s continuing prevalence in the hardcore world and proves their unfaltering commitment to the scene after more than twenty years. This material unfortunately isn’t as great as past efforts, but is probably worth checking out nonetheless.
2. "Danger Zone"
4. "All Or Nothing"
5. "Glory Years"
7. "Shatterproof" (featuring Roger Miret)
8. "The End"
9. "Con Fuerza"
11. "Hurt You"
12. "Tough Guy"
13. "Dark Horse"
14. "Spider’s Web