Madball @ The Underworld, London, United Kingdom
Soldiers, doctors, lawyers, TV producers, CEOs, suit-and-tie guys and working folk of all stripes: these people comprise an ever-expanding segment of the Madball community. They are a group of fans weaned on the legendary band's brutal New York City Hardcore, who take the fire, passion and spirit that drives Madball, and the subculture they have long represented, into their positions of power and influence all over the world.
It's an ever-expanding phalanx, a network of either tightly interconnected or loosely associated individuals who share a love of free-thinking, truth-telling and hard-knock sincerity. These people Infiltrate the System.
The members of Madball are icons in the underground and that underground now spills forth into the streets. Since forming in 1988, Madball has been responsible for some of the most important releases in the genre, from the seminal Ball of Destruction EP (1989) to the landmark albums Set It Off (1994), Demonstrating My Style (1996), Look My Way (1998), Hold it Down (2000), and their career defining resurgent Ferret Music debut, Legacy (2005).
The band completes their musical and lyrical evolution with Infiltrate the System, comprised of 13 tracks that combine the most tried-and-true and fan-beloved elements of their esteemed catalog with new depth, renewed urgency, increasing diversity and a near-conceptual approach to new stories about the streets, and the world.
It's fitting that after meeting so many of different types of fans on the road, in places as diverse as Latin America, Europe and Japan (the band's first proper tour, in fact, was across the Atlantic, and South America followed soon after), Madball chose to acknowledge the impact of the hardcore community that spawned them in places great and small, from the mind-blowing to the mundane, with their new album's title.
"There are so many different examples that have come up more recently in my life," relates singer Freddy Madball, who began the band (which takes its moniker from the nickname given Freddy by legendary New York Hardcore fixture Vinnie Stigma) as a young teenager with some guys from his brother's group, Agnostic Front, and has seen it evolve alongside co-founding member Hoya Roc.
"The guys from Ferret are a perfect example. Ferret is a legitimate heavy music label that is starting to compete with majors in that genre. And those dudes are total hardcore dudes. They grew up with our shit, Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All, and they still hold on to that passion that people from the hardcore world tend to have. That little extra hunger or fire that translates to what they do now. And I think that being a part of this whole hardcore thing, this whole lifestyle, movement, it gives you a unique perspective on a lot of things."
Or another case in point: the occasion where Cricien's mother met with a real estate agent while wearing an Agnostic Front t-shirt. "This guy who was helping my mom, at one point in his life, was a hardcore fan! And that encouraged him to be even more helpful. And he's this real estate agent wearing a suit and a tie," Freddy says.
Or consider this: "I walked up to immigration coming back from Japan into America and the guy looks at my passport and he goes, 'Freddy Madball!' This was the customs guy!
"People with this unique background and upbringing when they are put in a position of influence or power, it can change a lot of things, in a good way. When people who are open-minded and free-thinking get put in positions of influence, they can really do a lot of things to make a change. It can extend anywhere from music to politics."
And while Madball certainly has not become a political band per se, Infiltrate the System does extend its lyrical scope to encompass a broader viewpoint about the world, which makes sense considering the American born singer and bass player's familial roots in the Latino community, and the fact that they have been traveling the world for the better part of their lives. Longtime guitarist Mitts and drummer Rigg Ross have sharpened their game into a fine point as well, with Hoya's ever present rhythms and Cricien's unmistakable throat histrionics in fine form.
There's a cadence, a flow, a beat (and perhaps a beatdown?) that is instantly recognizable as Madball, but as grown men and well-traveled musicians, it's all been pushed to a brand new level that fully realizes the band's potential.
"Our music is honest. And the lyrics are straight forward and to the point. I think that's a big reason why people relate to us everywhere," notes Freddy. "What you see is what you get. We're real dudes and we're telling real stories. We have our own brand of this music we call hardcore. When your music is real, and you have your own kind of style, I think that always translates to a certain amount of respect and acknowledgment."
And along with respect and acknowledgment, Madball has racked up a great deal of experience, which came in handy when they reunited with producer Zeuss (Shadows Fall, Hatebreed, Throwdown) to make the new album.
"When we first started recording, you'd have to do a million takes, it was grueling, and mind you I'm yelling at the top of my head like an idiot," Freddy laughs. "I'm screaming my brains out. Imagine having to do that time and time again. And we also used to torture ourselves by writing everything last minute.
"Nowadays, we get ourselves in a room and we write the stuff, at least the music and half of the lyrics, we have it done and we have a game plan. It kind of started with Hold It Down, but with Legacy and Infiltrate the System, we've really stepped our game up and been a little bit more professional about how we approach recording it. We know what this band needs to sound like. We know the direction that we need to go in and it's just a matter of executing it. The last two albums have come together relatively smoothly which usually means it's a good thing."
To call Infiltrate the System "good" is the understatement of the year. It's in fact nothing less than another victory in a series of triumphs for the band, who are increasingly getting their hard-won due from their longtime fans, their peers in other bands, and new fans alike (who themselves will one day Infiltrate the System).
"We know what people expect of us but we also know that every album we need to push ourselves and we need to take what we've learned and do it better. I think with this album, we're at the final stage of evolution with Madball. All the other stuff has been building, learning, trial and error. It has all the elements that people like about Madball, it's super heavy, but it can appeal to a lot of different people. We've definitely grown as people and as musicians."
And to fully experience that growth, it is imperative to listen to Infiltrate the System from start to finish: first to be laid to waste by its power, next to delve into its lyrical stories, and finally to catch the nuances that themselves have infiltrated the band's sound. "Like always, we're telling a story, giving an opinion, stating some facts, whatever, with every song -- but it's on another level," Freddy explains. "Half of the album is a concept album and half of it is just kicking it back to the streets, venting. You have to hear the whole thing to absorb what's going on."
What fool disobeys an order from MADBALL? Get it, hear it, absorb it, and Infiltrate the System yourself!