|Origin||New York City, New York, US|
|Years active||1981–2002, 2008-present|
The Cro-Mags are an American hardcore punk band from New York City, United States. The band, which has a strong cult following, has released five studio albums, their 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 (formerly drummer for the Stimulators) and John Joseph are practitioners of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing respectively.
The 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 Mackie 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 in which Flanagan would retain exclusive rights to the Cro-Mags name while Joseph and Mackie 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. By 1982/83 Flanagan recorded the very first Cro-Mags demo consisting of 4 songs that would become the blue print for their debut album The Age of Quarrel (1986). Flanagan wrote all of the music, played each instrument, and performed vocals. Before long he connected with Parris Mayhew and the two started writing music and auditioning band members. Age of Quarrel singer John Joseph parted ways with the band for the first time after Age of Quarrel, leaving bass player Harley Flanagan to sing on the following Cro-Mags release, Best Wishes (1989), which had a more heavy metal-influenced sound. The next record Alpha Omega saw the return of Joseph singing along with Flanagan. According to guitarist and songwriter 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. The Cro-Mags disbanded and 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 and eventually 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 that was a short lived reunion and ended in 2002.
In 2008, John Joseph and Mackie began playing shows under the Cro-Mags name with other established hardcore musicians such as Craig Setari from Sick of It All on bass, and A.J. Novello from Leeway on guitar. In an October 2010 interview, Joseph revealed that they were planning to release a new album in 2011, though ultimately this did not happen. Flanagan released his solo debut album, Cro-Mags, in 2016, it featured Cro-Mags alum Gabby Abularach on guitar.
In 2018, Flanagan filed a federal trademark infringement action suing prior band members John Joseph and Mackie Jayson. In April 2019, Flanagan announced a settlement wherein he would own exclusive use of the name "Cro-Mags"; simultaneously, Joseph announced his recognition of the settlement, and that he and his band would perform as Cro-Mags "JM", beginning in August.
On June 28, 2019, Cro-Mags released their first new music in nineteen years, sharing three new songs "Don't Give In", "Drag You Under" and "No One's Victim", and they were preparing a new album with producer, Arthur Rizk for a planned early 2020 release date. They were the opening act for four shows with the reunited Misfits: June 29 in Los Angeles, September 7 in Denver, September 11 in Oakland and September 14 in Seattle. This was followed by a ten-date European tour to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the Best Wishes album.
Following the European tour, Cro-Mags released the digital single, "From the Grave" that featured former Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell on lead and slide guitar. A three-song 7" EP of the same name was released on December 6 2019 in various colors and have the tracks "PTSD" and "Between Wars" included. The band was set to perform with Body Count in New York City on March 15 at Webster Hall. The show was postponed due to the COVID-19 virus. The band decided to live stream a free performance from SIR studios, one of the first bands to do so during the pandemic. On March 31, 2020, the band offered a free download of the track, "The Final Test" and announced the June 19 release date of their first studio album in twenty years, In the Beginning.
At various times during the 1990s and 2000s, Flanagan and Joseph simultaneously led separate versions of the Cro-Mags with completely different lineups. The groups billed themselves as Cro-Mag Jam, Street Justice, Age of Quarrel, Rival Mob, FVK (Fearless Vampire Killers) or Cholo-Mags.