Maintaining urgency, authenticity and integrity has never been an issue for New York City’s hardest, and hardest working band, Madball. Twenty-five years along as a recording and touring entity, MB brings forth its ninth aural chapter, For the Cause; a signature collection of lionhearted, groove-laden, street-level New York Hardcore as only Madball can bring it.
The aptly titled album doesn’t so much revisit where the group has been since 1994 – although Madball released its first EP, Ball of Destruction as a virtual Agnostic Front side-project back in 1989 – but forges forward and represents where the fellas find themselves collectively and personally a quarter-decade down the road.
Throughout the band’s storied history, Madball has asserted its mission; carrying forth a simple yet righteous cause, and this time around, they’ve chosen to define that cause more succinctly than ever before. Tornadic vocalist/front man Freddy Cricien explains, “If you’re not fighting for a cause, you’re not participating in life. Simple as that. Speak up, fight, educate yourself, make a difference and make sacrifices for what’s important to you.” Words to live by.
For the Cause sees the return to the fold of guitarist Matt Henderson, who hasn’t appeared on a Madball album since 2000’s Hold it Down, for which Henderson also served as producer. “To have him record with us again was really special” offers Freddy. He adds, “Matt’s been playing ‘commemorative’ shows and tours with us on-and-off over the years, so, obviously, the love and friendship is there. He’ll always be an honorary member… A Madball lifer.”
Unique to this album is the stellar production work by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong, who clearly helped express Madball’s distinctive voice powerfully and dynamically without stepping on the trademark formula the band has forever carried, yet constantly seeks to improve upon. “It’s a tricky thing, producing. You can truly enhance something, but you could also ruin a record if a band lets you” says Cricien. Freddy continues, “Tim has always respected our band and how we do what we do. He knew we had a vision for how this album should sound, so he let us do our thing, but was there every step supporting and cheering us on. Whenever he did chime in, it was well thought out and he made strong suggestions. He even helped write the hook on ‘For You.’ He was there for us in a non-meddlesome role, which for this particular record, was the best-case scenario.” Danish studio veteran Tue Madsen (Meshuggah, Dark Tranquility, Sick of it All) skillfully handled mixing duties on For the Cause.
Also, noteworthy on For the Cause are the various cameo appearances by some of Madball’s friends, as well as several artists with whom the group shares a mutual respect; namely Psycho Realm’s Sick Jacken on the track “Rev Up,” The Business’ Steve Whale and producer Armstrong on “The Fog,” plus legendary emcee Ice-T on the hardcore banger “Evil Ways.” Freddy discloses, “Jacken is our homie. He just came through to say what’s up and check out the spot and I happened to be recording ‘Rev up.’ He was really digging the song and just freestyled. It really drove the message of the song home. As for Ice-T, he added a good flavor to ‘Evil Ways.’ It was a real honor to work with someone I’ve been following and have respected since I was a kid. He genuinely supports our band and the scene we come from. Tim and Steve jumping on The Fog’ happened organically like everything else with this record.” The UK Oi! legend provided the spoken intro and a guitar lead to the street punk tinged anthem.
What’s maybe most notable on For the Cause is its various twists and turns both musically and vocally to keep Madball’s brand of NYHC fresher than it has ever been. Freddy presents, “How do you grow as a band or as a person if you don’t take chances? We feel obligated to ourselves and everyone else to evolve, at least somewhat. We took more ‘chances’ on this record than on any previous one, and we’re happy about that! We’re proud that it’s still very much us; it’s real and honest. There is plenty on there to satisfy the people that support us from every era of this band.”
As for Madball’s astounding longevity in the hardcore game: “We don’t know how to do anything else at this point. We raise our families to the best of our ability; we do Madball to the best of our ability… So far so good, and we don’t feel that we’ve reached our full potential in either of those areas just yet.”