Madball Empire

Madball Empire
For the past 20-plus years, NYHC outfit Madball have struggled with an identity crisis. Striving to attain their level of notoriety without being constantly linked to big brother bands such as Agnostic Front and Sick Of It All, they've turned in interesting, carbon-copied and overtly off-putting releases. However, while Agnostic Front have opted to embrace the very same metal they used to shun and Sick Of It All discovered a sense of good pop hooks, only now are Madball sounding autonomous. At that, Empire sounds like the final ring of the NYHC bell. With its two- and four-heavy progressions, monolithic guitar and raging bellows unleashing frustration and aggravation, peppered with morsels of hope, the majority of these tracks are captivating. Hate Eternal mastermind Erik Rutan does an admirable job of lending Madball the weight and austerity their low-end verse riffs deserve, ensuring Empire actually doles out heaps of imposition and embitterment. Still, while Madball feel charged and steely on Empire, there isn't enough variation in their attack to ensure that all 16 tracks are boundlessly fetching. Aspects of sameness permeate about halfway through, revealing that while this is one of their better efforts, Madball would benefit from a reminder that hardcore is about the short, sharp shock, not an elongated exercise in grinding listeners down. (Good Fight)