Before the Cro-Mags, the idea of combining heavy metal and hardcore together was unheard of. But with the release of their classic debut, The Age of Quarrel, hardcore-metal was born, and in its wake came a legion of similarly styled offspring (Biohazard, Vision of Disorder, etc.). Although the group endured an endless amount of lineup shifts (which is probably the main reason they never became as well known as they should have), the Cro-Mags continued to record and tour in one form or another.
WE GOTTA KNOW by CRO-MAGS
Through it all, the New York City-based group’s leader has been bassist Harley Flanagan who, in 1977 at the ripe old age of ten (!), started his first punk band during a European trip. Upon returning to NYC, Flanagan supplied drums for the Stimulators, a band that performed quite a bit locally and in Washington, D.C., alongside Bad Brains. The early ’80s saw the initial Cro-Mags lineups formed with a variety of members playing alongside the only constant: Flanagan. By the middle of the decade, the best-known Cro-Mags lineup was in place — Flanagan on bass, former Bad Brains roadie John Joseph on vocals, Parris Mayhew on guitar, and Mackie Jayson on drums — and soon built a rabid following via shows at CBGB’s. The quartet recorded a 13-track demo that made the rounds throughout the underground — eventually officially released in 2000, as Before the Quarrel — and landing the Cro-Mags a record deal with Profile’s Rock Hotel label (with second guitarist Doug Holland joining, as well). Similar to how Bad Brains aligned themselves with Rastafarianism, it was around this time that members of the band became closely associated with the Hare Krishna faith. With a loud buzz forming, the Cro-Mags issued their aforementioned debut, The Age of Quarrel, in 1986. With such bands as Slayer and Metallica becoming increasingly popular, it seemed like the musical tides were changing in favor of groups like the Cro-Mags, as nationwide tours with such groups as Motörhead and Megadeth expanded their audience. But it wasn’t meant to be, as both Joseph and Jayson exited the group after its supporting tour (the latter of which would later turn up in the Bad Brains and the Fun Lovin’ Criminals).
DEATH CAMPS by CRO-MAGS
Instead of following up their debut right away, it wasn’t until 1989 that Best Wishes was released, which saw Flanagan double as lead vocalist. With increasing troubles with their label, Mayhew left the group, but by the early ’90s, the Cro-Mags were up and running once more, as Flanagan and Joseph resuscitated the band with a pair of albums for the Century Media label — 1992’s Alpha-Omega and 1993’s Near Death Experience. However, after the release of a double-live album, Hard Times in an Age of Quarrel, the Cro-Mags split up. Since then, various versions of the Cro-Mags have recorded and toured (including a brief reunion of Flanagan and Mayhew which resulted in 2000s Revenge). Flanagan eventually returned with a new band, Harley’s War (which included ex-Suicidal Tendencies guitarist Rocky George); who issued their debut in 2003, titled Cro-Mag.