|Classic Review: Cro-Mags - Best Wishes|
Year released: 1989
Genre: Thrash Metal
Review online: October 29, 2006
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Rated 3.75/5 (75%) (16 Votes)
Right out of the gate I want to make this understood: the Cro-Mags were not a metal band. Period. But Best Wishes is most certainly a metal album. Back in the late 80's there was a bit of hubbub over a subgenre called 'Crossover', which was just a fancy way of saying a lot of hardcore bands were getting into Thrash back then. Despite a lot of hype, not much ever came of this trend except a few bands like Leeway, and this one fine album from NYC hardcore stalwarts the Cro-Mags.
So yes, the pedigree of this band was NYC hardcore, but there's not much in the way of any traces of that here except maybe in the vocals of bassist/frontman Harley Flanagan, which are not typical for a Thrash or a hardcore band. He has a tuneful voice with still some traces of hardcore aggression, but he handles more melodic work on this disc just fine. The real star of Best Wishes is the unbeatable guitar team of Doug Holland and Paris Mitchell Mayhew, who as far as I can tell never worked together again, but here they absolutely raged with a killer fucking guitar sound, shredding Thrash riffs galore, and crazy leads that blaze right through. Flanagan's bass playing is almost as impressive, with a recording job that lets you hear what he's up to down there. "Death Camps" opens up with the kind of ultra-sharp chugging riffs you can expect from this album, and the band proceeds to blaze through highlights like "Down But Not Out", the awesome "Crush The Demoniac" and the show-stopping closer "Age Of Quarrel". They even slip in a more melodic shot or two with the lighter "Fugitive", and the power ballad "The Only One" – and I tell you, most so-called 'power ballads' only wish they had a main riff this frigging awesome.
The Cro-Mags never again flashed this kind of power and ability. Their next album featured an almost complete lineup change, and while it had some good stuff, it was not nearly as good as this. Later on the band became – I swear I am not making this up – Hare Krishnas, and stopped making music altogether as it was too 'violent'. But none of that diminishes this classic disc. Many people refuse to accord this its due because of its hardcore ancestry, but there just is not anything hardcore about this album. Certainly many Thrash bands featured more hardcoreish vocals, and the socially-conscious lyrics were pretty much par for Thrash bands of the day, so all those of you who think this is a hardcore album can just cram it. This can be a hard album to dig up – believe me I know – but it is well worth it.
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