Cro-Mags are an American hardcore punk band from New York City. The band, which has a strong cult following, has released six studio albums, with the first two considered the most influential. With a Hare Krishna background, they were among the first bands to fuse hardcore punk with thrash metal and were associated with the birth of a tougher attitude within the hardcore scene in the late 1980s, related to the world of martial arts. Harley Flanagan and John Joseph are practitioners of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing, respectively.
Cro-Mags have gone through many line-up changes since the band's beginnings. Flanagan has been the sole trademark owner of the group's name since the early 1990s, the primary songwriter , and only member featured on every album, while Joseph and Jayson continued to tour with other musicians using the Cro-Mags name, against the wishes of Flanagan.
In April 2019, Flanagan reached a settlement with Joseph and Mackie Jayson in which Flanagan would retain exclusive rights to the Cro-Mags name while Joseph and Jayson would move forward under the name, Cro-Mags "JM".
The band's early years were spent living in burnt out buildings, squats, and on the streets. The band was formed under the name Mode of Ignorance, after Parris Mayhew had put up a number of posters in search of band members, which Harley Flanagan responded to. The band's original lineup consisted of Dave Hahn on drums, Mayhew and Dave Stein on guitar, John Joseph on lead vocals and Flanagan on bass. During its early existence, the band would go through frequent lineup changes, Mayhew explained in Tony Rettman's book New York Hardcore that this was because "Harley would see some kid with a shaved head and think 'This kid is hard... let's bring him into the band.' Then I would end up tolerating some horrible, talentless person for however long it took Harley to realise that the guy had no talent". Joseph left the band soon after to live in Puerto Rico and then Hawaii, and was replaced by Eric Casanova. One Cro-Mags lineup from this time consisted of Flanagan on drums, Mayhew on guitar, Todd Youth on bass and Casanova on vocals. By the time the band played their first live performance, Youth had been replaced by Roger Miret, however soon after Casanova was kicked out of the band due to the birth of his son interfering with scheduling. By this time, Joseph had returned to New York and so rejoined as the band's vocalist. Youth briefly re-joined the band after Miret's departure, at the same time Robb "Nunzio" Ortiz joined as an additional guitarist. A few months later, the band changed their name to the Cro-Mags.
The band's debut album The Age of Quarrel was released in 1986, which was mostly written by Parris Mayhew and Flanagan, some songs being based on a four track demo that Flanagan had recorded solo in 1982 while on the West Coast. Joseph parted ways with the band again after The Age of Quarrel, leaving Flanagan to sing on the following Cro-Mags release, Best Wishes , which had a more heavy metal-influenced sound. The next record Alpha Omega saw the return of Joseph singing along with Flanagan. According to cofounder Parris Mayhew, he wrote most of the album with guitarist Rob Buckley. However, neither Mayhew or Buckley played on the actual recording, and the writing has been disputed by Flanagan and others. Cro-Mags disbanded but later recorded the album with the return of Doug Holland and a new rhythm guitarist, Gabby Abularach.
The album, Near Death Experience was released in 1993, after which the group disbanded for several years. They began touring again in the late 1990s with Flanagan on vocals and bass and Mayhew returning to the fold. Eventually, the band released Revenge in 2000. For many fans, this album signified a return to Cro-Mags' early hardcore roots. Many songs were comparable to those on The Age of Quarrel, although some featured a more melodic/punk rock style. The release of Revenge and its subsequent tour resulted in yet another break up, which caused lasting resentment between Mayhew and Flanagan. In 2001 Flanagan asked Joseph to join him once again, but the short-lived reunion ended in 2002.
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