Madball, Twitching Tongues, Born Low, and Power - Pub Rock - 2/25/14

Madball Pub Rock 2/25/14

Upon entering the low-lit dungeon of Scottsdale's Pub Rock Tuesday night, there was an immediate wall of aggro vibes smashing you in the face. More than understandable, considering the night's entertainment was New York hardcore legends Madball. Formed in the late '80s after a trend had emerged: Agnostic Front vocalist Roger Miret's kid brother Freddy jumping on stage and taking over vocal duties.

Though started as a somewhat humorous side project (Freddy being young at the time), Madball soon became a dead-serious unit and fell in line with pioneering the signature metallic style of '90s New York hardcore, alongside bands like Sheer Terror and Marauder. The group also is one of the flagship acts associated with the infamous DMS Crew that maintains a powerful foothold in the New York hardcore world.

The night began with a set from Bremerton, Washington's Power. Very little comes to mind when trying to describe the group, as they ultimately were forgettable, another in a massive wave of modern metallic hardcore bands that floods the genre.

They stumbled through a lackluster set of stock chugging breakdowns and stomping verses aided by guttural barking vocals. Oddly, the singer was wearing a shirt straight off his own merchandise table that displayed a logo that comes painfully close to a Mountain Dew label.

Next up was Albany's Born Low, which musically resembled Power's soulless mosh fodder to a T, with the only noticeable difference being the singer's displaying a bit more energy, bouncing around the stage and shouting out gym coach-esque orders to the crowd.

Between songs, special announcements and dedications were made, one of which was a soliloquy about how much the singer loves his father. A real head-scratcher moment. And once again, the frontman was wearing his own band's shirt. (What's next, name tags?) Toward the end of the set, the first display of hardcore dancing erupted. Part aerobics, part ballet, part karate, it's a strange sight for anyone outside the different channels of hardcore to witness.

As soon as Twitching Tongues stepped down on their first power chord, the room exploded into a flurry of flash tattoo art, gym shorts, and camper hats. The L.A.-based genre-bending act has been gaining a lot of attention lately with the release of its sophomore LP, In Love There Is No Law, and has adopted a heavy touring schedule in support of the album.

A noticeable departure from the prior acts, Twitching Tongues plays a more melodic form of crossover hardcore, with clean singing courtesy of Taylor Young and near radio-friendly compositions -- all while still keeping with the typical "chug-chug" metallic standards. Mid-set they busted out a cover of Carnivore's "S.M.D." that was so left field it was in the bleachers. Of all the openers, Twitching Tongues definitely took home the gold for originality and sheer confusion.

As Madball's intro music began to play, I noticed several audience members stretching their hamstrings, popping off their shirts, and mean-mugging anyone and everyone. It was obvious some major MMA action was about to go down. Enter Madball.

The energy was undeniably arresting as Freddy Cricen took control of the crowd. His presence blew over every frontman of the night like a house of cards. Every element of the band was austere and fortified: the type of posture that only 20-plus years atop one of America's most ferocious music scenes can enable.

Their song structures moved in a classic fluid motion, showing an influence of early New York hardcore such as Outburst, Straight Ahead, and Rest in Pieces. Though some of the newer material began to feel lackluster, when classics like "Demonstrate My Style" fired off, it seemed appropriate to call the night a success.

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Roger Calamaio
Contact: Roger Calamaio