FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 49: Madball – Set It Off

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 49: Madball - Set It Off

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 49: Madball – Set It Off

This is the forty-ninth entry of my blog series ‘First Impressions.’ In each entry of the series I write about discovering an influential or genre-classic album for the first time and then write about that experience in a semi-planned, semi-stream of consciousness manner that is less helpful than a traditional album-review, but which does contain more personal flavour.

I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.

If you want your own First Impressions article done, just suggest it in the comments. I’ll give anything a shot.

Bouyed by the success of trying Downset, and the enjoyment I had at the Hatebreed concert, I’ve decided to finally get around to trying out Madball. I remember that I got into Biohazard very, very early in my time in the world of Metal fandom (I bought Urban Discipline the same day that I bought Demanufacture, and so got given a Drilling The Vein Roadrunner Records music videos VHS as part of a HMV promotion going at the time, although, Urban Discipline didn’t really count because it wasn’t one of the selected roadrunner albums, but my father convinced the cashier to give it to me anyway, since it was all Roadrunner albums I’d bought, and kind of, “who cares bro – they’re just free VHS tapes anyway?” logic. It worked. That VHS had the music video for ‘Ten Ton Hammer’ and a live version of ‘Eye For An Eye’ by Machine Head and Soulfly on it respectively. It also had Fear Factory and others. Cool, for free, way way pre-youtube.)

It took me a while to warm to Biohazard (in fact I remember trying to trade Urban Discipline away to a half-friend, but he wasn’t having any of it ((although good job he didn’t, because I actually ended up getting loads of enjoyment out of it over the years))) but when I did finally become a proper fan, I started watching this then-new TV channel called P-Rock TV, which was full of exclusively Pop Punk music videos (including Fallout Boy before they got signed) and big beefy NYHC videos by bands like Biohazard, Sick Of It All… and Madball.

I remember really enjoying the about two Madball songs I ever heard, but not getting around to checking them out as a band (I also still haven’t gotten around to checking out Sick Of It All, even though ‘Scratch The Surface’ is one of my all-time favourite songs – which I have on its own in my iTunes, begotten from some sampler CD sometime.)

I remember once more wanting to try Madball out a bit when I first got into Hatebreed. I remember wanting to check them out when I got Deicide and Annihlator’s Best Of albums and seeing Roadrunner had made a Madball one in the same series.

I remember when, after getting their Live DVD on a whim, in a period of wanting more Live DVDs, and totally falling in love with Hatebreed and so getting more albums instead of just sticking with Perseverance like I had been doing, I wanted to check out Madball yet again. I remember around this Period, Madball put out Empire, and I heard two songs off of it on Myspace (remember when that was how it was done?) and those tracks sounded like Hatebreed and it cemented my plan to get into Madball forever.

Then time passed and I actually didn’t get any Madball. However, every time I went into a HMV for the next few years, I’d always scan for them, looking to see if there was any Madball. Usually there was either none, or their newest record but priced too highly, and I decided to wait.

I remember also, I picked up an issue of Metal Hammer Magazine, that I bought, years after I stopped reading it regularly (I read it every month from 2002-2006), because it had a list of the 300 best Metal albums. You know I love those sorts of lists and so I checked it out. Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed suggested Madball’s Set It Off as a must own Metallic Hardcore album, alongside Sick Of It All and Biohazard (and others of course) and that, along with its Black And White Photo Of A Child With A GUN (suuuuuch a Biohazard looking cover), made me want to check it out.

Also, I noticed after the recent Hatebreed concert that the one Hatebreed release that I had been ignoring, (because covers albums are so rarely to my tastes) their covers album For The Lions, featured a cover of Madball’s ‘Set It Off.’

I listened to that on Youtube. I listened to the original. I looked online and the CD was a bit expensive. I gave up a bit. Then I listened to the Downset album, and I stopped giving up. Then one day last week, after my first exam, I noticed it was on Amazon MP3 for £3 and boom, the deed was done, I’d bought it.

So. Now. After the crazy exam week has finished, its time to listen to it.


The title-track opens up like the non-musical soundtrack to The Wire, lots of Urban nosies, sirens, people calling eachother ‘Muthafucker,’ etc.
Then a spoken word ‘We Don’t Fake It, We Just Take It.’ Hmmm.
But then, the song starts. Some very beefy, chunky, groovy Biohazard minus-the-hip hop style music comes in. There’s some fast bits but mostly its either Doomy or Mid-tempo. The vocals are like Evan Sienfeld, but there’s no Billy style contrast vocals. There’s also no rapping.
It goes into a cool, very Sepultura and Machine Head’s debut sounding dark tom rolling section. Then, it brings out a bouncy riff, and some of those drumbeats you don’t hear anymore that I was talking about last time. Duppa dudda dah, dena duppa dudda dah datha. Y’know, things that its actually fun to play on the drums. It ends.

Next up; ‘Lockdown.’ It opens with very, very God Hates Us All era Slayer sounding downtunedy guitar intros and drum rolls. Then swaps its tone, into this punky d-beat, higher-chords kind of a bit. The common language between Pop-Punk and sort of DC Hardcore… y’know those bits? Like the thing you’d imagine people Skateboarding to. That.
The chorus is cool. Then they use that Slayer bit to transition into this fat groovey breakdown that reminds me of Anthrax, with these slow menacing double kicks. Then a bit that sounds like Biohazard, the way that the vocal patterns work.

It ended. Then there’s the sound effect of a gun being cocked and ‘New York City’ starts. It blasts for a second. Then it goes into some quiet hi-hat chicks, then starts properly. The main bit, is like this Cyborg Dave Mustaine chug, going at a constant mechanical pace. Then it morphs into a prechorus, some double kicks in a fun pattern with bouncy drumming and a fun ending fill. Then the verse again. The cyborg one. Then the bouncy bit. Then a cool chorus based on leaving the chords hanging. Then a no-music vocal transition (who loves those? I love those!) into a breakdown. They play out the ending slower and meaner, like how Machine Head sometimes do on their first two records. It ends briefly, without making a meal of that. Or ever repeating the chorus bit.

‘Never Had It’ follows. Its got a tom based intro then it flies away into somemore of that d-beat Hardcore, only this time its less summery, its darker and more oppressive sounding. After about 30-Seconds it kicks into a friggin amazing groove, with this brilliant chug rhythm. Its massive fun. Its produced like Chaos AD, but played like Scott Ian trying to cover Machine Head. Then its all over.

Its time for ‘Its Time’ next, It starts right off in the middle of a Biohazard song. Right in the groove. Then it throws in one of those Hardcore hyper-trundles, the sort of thing that are the sonic equivalent of an at-practice American Football Player running through those things that they run through to practice bursting through arms trying to get the ball off um. Y’know those things, the equipment to train not dropping the ball and not being put off by attackers? I talked about these musical bits before in the Downset one. They’re the links between Scott Ian and Hardcore. Its one of those. Then a chorusized version of the intro groove. For like 2 seconds. Then the Scottpowertrundle. Then that Biohazard chorus again, but it goes into this cool stop-start bit, where there’s a different kickdrum pattern in each of the guitar silences. I love, love, LOVE IT when bands do that. Then some cymbal washing and a sort of guitar build up. Then a new riff from out of nowhere…that just fades out. What? Is there a law against four minute songs in New York?

‘C.T.Y.C (R.I.P)’ thumps in next. Instantly in a Punky D-beating, snot spitting mood. It morphs into one of those bouncy grooves. Then the drums cut out. Then it all comes back, only with vocals. The chorus has some emotional weight to it, and sort of half a melody. It then does the funk bit, chopped in half, with a bounce tail added in. It then does a speed-up thing that System Of A Down may have stolen. Then starts over again into the intro bit followed by that almost melodic chorus and chopped-groove/tail combo. Then it ends with some fake record skipping after another speed up bit.

‘Across Your Face’ is next. Some feedback, then another summer-punk riff. Terribly fun. So far, so skateboards in the video. Then it throws down one of those floor tom roll things that Hardcore bands did, and its even more fun. However, they dwell on the payoff of that bit for mere seconds before the whole song has ended.

Next up. ‘Down By Law.’ Ohhh. Its got one of those Doomy hanging type riffs. The drum beat sounds like it should be in a band who rap’s song. They make the song really exciting with the different touches they throw into it to heavy it up. Its very rhymically pleasing. It actually lasts for longer than a sneeze too! Lots of gang backing vocals. I’m sure it was fun in concerts. Then some toms rolls, some funky fun beats, then the power trundle. This tune has it all. The ending riff, with the repeated screams of ‘why?’ is the best thing on the record so far.

‘Spit On Your Grave’ comes in like its going to be the slowest tune on the record, then fires off on rocket skates into one of those darker punky bits. The chorus, which is sort of this, uncomfortably shaped mid-tempo all-elbows affair is a kind of cool thing that shouldn’t fit but does. Its followed on its second appearance by an even more awkwardly shaped thing that feels like it could be on Slipknot’s debut in one of the less-famous songs. Also, if you sing the rhymn of it with your mouth, it sounds like you are singing ‘Black Rockin Beats’ instead.
There’s a final chorus and then its over. Mine glitched though, so I’ll have to redownload it. It just ended mid-word.

Anyway. I’ve come face to face with ‘Face To Face’ (I know, I almost didn’t type it). It starts off very slow and measured. Then one of those flappy fun-beats. Then another of those faster punky sections. Back to flappy town. Another floor tom rolls bit. Its kind of a bit heard-it-all-before at this stage but every part is fun, and if you’d heard it alone, it’d all be good. So I guess all’s well. Damn, this one is glitched as well. Glitchy town up in hyah.

I’ve decided to go an sit outside in the beautiful warm sunshine. There are tiny tranulcent spiders climbing up my screen as I type. It’s a gorgrous day outside and its best to soak up some vitamin D while its available. Laptops being portable and all though, I decide to take the FI with me.

So the unpleasantly titled ‘Smell The Bacon (What’s With You)’ comes on next. Now as a law abiding, want-to-be-thinster I have no interest in songs advocating the consumption of too much actual bacon, or songs slagging off the police. I don’t get that whole anti-cop thing. Just don’t break the law and they leave you alone. They keep you safe too.

Anyway. No Justice No Peace cracks off with a siren sound effect and then a slow bassline that actually sounds like Nirvana. Its goes straight into one of those slow, circular bits that hardcore bands do. Y’know the one’s I’m on about? They sound like maybe they are where you are supposed to run around in a circle to. Anyway, then the song does something really cool, and it sort of superfast beats and stops in such a way as that the sections sound like they are being sucked into a super dense singularity. It sounds like spaceships being sucked into a blackhole. Its got crazy high energy. It seems more like something Napalm Death should’ve come up with. Its crazy tempo and rhymn shifts are really something more associated with like, Dream Theater. Then its actually turned into a new song called ‘Get Out’ which is more of the superfast bits without the Black Hole. Then they go into a circular groove and shout out ‘Madball.’ Its fun. Then instead of getting their moneys worth, there’s like 3 more seconds of blasting and its all over.

Next. ‘The World Is Mine.’ Powertrundle. A few powertrundlevariations. This is one of the funnest songs so far. Then a very twistey Biohazard groove-hang style chorus. Then the three powertrundle variations back in order followed by another Biospiral. Then they throw in this really ahead of its time Chimaira and Lamb Of God style breakdown. There’s somemore timesig madness sounding stuff. Then the final Biospiral. Cool tune.

Its over and there’s some sound effects of dialougue and an explosion, before the final song kicks in. ‘Friend Or Foe’ finishes the album out. It starts off with what seems like its going to be one of those Offspring/Pennywise sounding riffs, but the toms build up slow and you realize it’s a really well developed circle section. Then some of those almost too-fast beats throw in, and there’s a fun recurring ‘Are You Friend Or Foe’ where each word gets its own guitar stab. After a bit of that, a really cool bit with funky beats and hanging guitars comes in like the biggest thing on the whole record is about to drop. Then it ends in one second without being properly paid off. Hmmm.

Oh. Would you look at that. The record was actually less than half-an-hour long. Well, I guess that’s a Hardcore thing. Overall, some very good music on it, 99% of it was stuff to my tastes, it was very meaty and substantial. Points against it? I guess it was repetitive and they did waste some potential by not paying off parts that could’ve been paid off or not repeating the best parts enough, but I guess the punk fans would praise it for being succinct.

So. Overall, not life-changing, but a welcome purchase. I doubt I’ll be listening to it all the time, but I don’t regret having picked it up. It was value for money at £3 anyway, and for how much enjoyment I got out of its brief duration. I can see why Jasta liked it so much. It was also cool to hear the bits from Downset and Biohazard that I like outside the context of Rapping, and it was cool to hear a Hardcore band who structure and do things in a less-Metal way. It’ll be a good reference point to have for when I try to transition between Biohazard-style Hardcore and the more Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat type, should I decide to explore there more thoroughly.

Ok. See you next time.

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