Our top ten Cro-Mags songs list looks at the body of work of an American band best known for its impactful role in the early development of the New York hardcore scene. Formed in 1981, Cro-Mags joins Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, and Sick of It All in the list of the few remaining influential acts of the ‘80s New York hardcore scene. The band’s hardcore punk sound is most prevalent in the band’s earlier records.
However, later records by the band cited its move to incorporate crossover thrash in its hardcore sound. This saw Cro-Mags join Nuclear Assault, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Crumbsuckers, and Leeway in the list of bands that took on crossover thrash in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Over the years, Cro-Mags has issued six studio albums, the first four being the most sought-after records by the band.
Cro-Mags’ Career Beginnings
In September 1986, Cro-Mags issued their debut studio album The Age of Quarrel through Profile Records, a label (once home) to The Cucumbers, Sharon Brown, Run-D.M.C., and Nemesis. The album is home to some of the best Cro-Mags songs including “Hard Times,” “We Gotta Know,” “Malfunction,” “It’s the Limit,” “World Peace,” and “Show You No Mercy.”
Working on the production of The Age of Quarrel was Chris Williamson, a record producer known for his work with Leeway, The Nils, and Dee Dee King. This hardcore punk studio album is the most momentous record ever released by the band. The album marked Cro-Mags’ breakthrough moment as one of the distinguished acts in the New York hardcore scene.
Cro-Mags’ Album Releases over the Years
After a successful debut studio album, Cro-Mags returned in 1989 with their sophomore studio album Best Wishes. While Cro-Mags had quite some impact on the New York hardcore scene, this record finds the band already signaling evolution to crossover thrash/thrash metal sounds. On Best Wishes, Harley Flanagan played the bass while taking on the lead vocals following the departure of singer John Joseph.
Notably, Singer John Joseph once served as a roadie for the hardcore punk Bad Brains. “Crush the Demoniac,” “Age of Quarrel,” “Down but Not Out,” and “Death Camps” are some of the most popular songs by Cro-Mags from the album. Best Wishes was Cro-Mags’ final album released through Profile Records.
Alpha Omega, issued in 1992, marked the band’s third studio album and first record issued through Century Media Records. Outstanding artists/bands that have issued records through Century Media Records include Arch Enemy, Dark Tranquility, Lacuna Coil, Periphery, Suicide Silence, and Napalm Death. Alpha Omega saw John Joseph return to the band’s lineup taking on the vocals.
Harley Flanagan returned to his usual bass roles while still backing John Joseph on some of the songs on this album. Unfortunately, this record was without guitarist Parris Mayhew who had left the band’s lineup. “Paths of Perfection,” “The Other Side of Madness (Revenge),” and “Eyes of Tomorrow” are the best Cro-Mags songs from Alpha Omega.
In 1993, Cro-Mags issued their fourth studio album Near Death Experience. The album was the second record by the band issued through Century Media Records. Near Death Experience is the last album to feature John Joseph on the lead vocals. The album saw the band explore heavily the crossover thrash genre. Some of the musical gems from the album include “Time I Am,” “Near Death Experiences,” and “Kali-Yuga.”
Seven years later, Cro-Mags returned with their fifth studio album Revenge. The album saw Harley Flanagan take on the lead vocals with Rocky George of Suicidal Tendencies playing the lead guitar. Revenge also welcomed back original rhythm guitarist Parris Mayhew to the band’s lineup. The album managed to reintroduce hardcore influences amidst the immense crossover thrash influences. “Without Her,” “Premeditated,” and “My Life” are some of the best Cro-Mags songs from Revenge.
In the Beginning, issued in 2020, marked the band’s sixth studio album. The album came two decades after Cro-Mags’ fifth studio album. In the Beginning still featured Rocky George of Suicidal Tendencies on the lead guitars. Rocky also provided backing vocals to bassist Harley Flanagan’s lead vocals. Former Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell is among the additional musicians featured on this record. “From the Grave,” “Between Wars,” and “No One’s Victim” are some of the top songs by Cro-Mags from the album.
Cro-Mags’ navigation in the music scene has been quite turbulent owing to the line-up changes. However, Cro-Mags joins Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Madball, and Sick of It All as some of the most sought-after bands from the New York hardcore scene. Cro-Mags later releases saw the band venture heavily into the crossover thrash sound. Here we present the all-time best Cro-Mags songs.
#10- Without Her
Ushering us to the top ten Cro-Mags songs list is the outstanding hit “Without Her.” The song is among the top musical gems issued on the band’s fifth studio album Revenge. “Without Her” finds the lead vocalist crooning about the endless thoughts about a gone lover. The lyrics showcase the singer’s inability to completely move on having him cite sleepless nights and the incompleteness of his life without the lady.
“Without Her” showcases the solid musicianship of rhythm guitarist Parris Mayhew and Rocky George of Suicidal Tendencies on the lead guitar. The two team up to give us some flaming guitar riffs which adequately complement the clean vocals of Harley Flanagan. “Without Her” is tinged with hardcore influences that point us back to Cro-Mags’ beginnings as an important act in the New York hardcore scene in the mid- ‘80s.
#9- Eyes of Tomorrow
Social and political commentary made part of the backbone of the New York hardcore scene as evidenced by some of its progenitors like Agnostic Front. Cro-Mags members were not left behind in giving us a piece of their piece of social critique in the track “Eyes of Tomorrow.” The song is one of the most sought-after songs from Cro-Mags’ third studio album Alpha Omega.
In this song, Cro-Mags takes a swipe at the conduct of the people in the society who have less regard for the lives of others, the environment, and ethics. Fans of bands like Faith No More will definitely love this song due to the rare but noticeable rap-rock influences, especially in the first half of this hit. However, the band goes full-blown into its crossover thrash sound in the next half of the song! Unfortunately, listing “Eyes of Tomorrow” on this list was at the expense of top musical gems such as “Death Camps” from Best Wishes.
#8- It’s the Limit
The Age of Quarrel, the band’s debut studio album, is one of the most crucial albums in the history of the New York hardcore scene. You can almost feel every song from the album calling for attention to feature on the ten best Cro-Mags songs. As a result, most of the fan-favorite hits from the band are featured on The Ages of Quarrel. Introducing us to Cro-Mags’ impressive and pure hardcore sound is the hit “It’s the Limit.”
Spanning slightly over one and a half minutes, “It’s the Limit” is a must-listen fan-favorite hardcore song. The song is one of the heavily used Cro-Mags hits, featuring in the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV. Together with other hardcore songs from Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Killing Time, and Murphy’s Law among others, “It’s the Limit” was also featured on the Liberty City Hardcore radio station. “It’s the Limit” has since its release been covered by several bands including American Nightmare and Hatebreed.
#7- From the Grave
Twenty years after Cro-Mags’ fifth studio album Revenge, the band attempted to rekindle its musical pursuits with its record In the Beginning. Among the top musical gems from In the Beginning is the seventh pick on our ten best Cro-Mags songs list “From the Grave.” The song is primarily a hardcore record, reminiscent of Cro-Mags’ stint as a prominent band in the New York hardcore scene back in the ‘80s.
“From the Grave” is proof of rekindled musicianship by Cro-Mags veneered with the impactful contribution of former Motörhead guitarist. Helping Cro-Mags reclaim its glory in the hardcore scene was Mission Two Entertainment, a label formed by the same team that saw acts/artists like Silverstein, Taking Back Sunday, and A Day to Remember succeed under Victory Records.
#6– The Other Side of Madness (Revenge)
Number six on our ten best Cro-Mags songs list is the rip-roaring hit “The Other Side of Madness (Revenge).” The song is one of the most remarkable hits off the band’s third studio album Alpha Omega. It is the ferocious vocal delivery by John Joseph backed by the awe-inspiring instrumentation that makes “The Other Side of Madness (Revenge)” one of the most sought-after tracks from the album Alpha Omega.
#5– World Peace
The Age of Quarrel, the band’s debut studio album, is home to the fifth best Cro-Mags song “World Peace.” Guitarist Parris Mayhew went ahead to reveal that he penned the music for this hit some years before he even joined Cro-Mags. The song would later become one of the most sought-after tracks upon release on the band’s debut LP The Age of Quarrel.
“World Peace” finds the band giving us a pessimistic view of the peace in the world citing it to be not achievable. The song was a hardcore classic that became the musical template for The Age of Quarrel. “World Peace” was covered in 2008 by the Swiss metalcore band Cataract.
#4- Paths of Perfection
“Paths of Perfection” is quite an alluring release—From the striking opening riff to the impressive vocal delivery, the song has got all the elements to crown it the best song off Alpha Omega. The remarkable guitar solo as the song approaches the end makes “Paths of Perfection” a must-have track on your hardcore/crossover thrash playlist. “Paths of Perfection” is only rivaled by the catchy fan-favorite hit “The Other Side of Madness (Revenge)” for the title of ‘the best song of the album.’
#3- Age of Quarrel
It almost feels like a crime to have had only one song from the band’s sophomore studio album Best Wishes grace our ten best Cro-Mags songs list. As a result, we couldn’t have botched selecting what song to feature from the album. After building up the momentum for other songs with the impressive album opening track “Death Camps,” Cro-Mags went ahead to issue several other musical gems such as “Crush the Demoniac.”
However, the end of the album feels like the climax of this record thanks to the quality of the pulsating hit “Age of Quarrel.” The song is one of the heaviest tracks off the album Best Wishes. “Age of Quarrel” is the quintessential track to the band’s musicianship on the album Best Wishes. Thanks to the undeniable metal feel of this hit that it attracted the attention of Shadows Fall, who covered it in 2009.
#2- Hard Times
“Hard Times” is an emblem of Cro-Mags’ impact in the hardcore scene. The song serves as a perfect anthem to the New York hardcore scene spirit of the ‘80s. “Hard Times” finds the band reminding its fans that there is a need to grow some thick skin to fully shelter oneself against tough times. The song attracted the attention of many including the heavy metal band Machine Head who covered it in 1995.
#1– We Gotta Know
Number one on our ten best Cro-Mags songs list is the ravishing hit “We Gotta Know.” The song is one of the most popular tracks off the band’s debut studio album The Age of Quarrel. “We Gotta Know” has its lyrics find lead vocalist John Joseph expressing his angst against deception.
Lots of fans have compared this hit’s instrumentation to that of “Malfunction,” another song off the band’s debut LP The Age of Quarrel. Guitarist Mayhew clarified in an interview that the two songs have quite some similarities with “We Gotta Know” mimicking “Malfunction,” especially on its intro. “We Gotta Know” was covered by Sepultura in 2002.
Top 10 Cro-Mags Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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Nice look back. Although I’d say strange choices of songs.
The commentary about WITHOUT HER makes me wonder if the author listened to the song? It mentions rOcky’s solo and his playing on the song. There isn’t a solo on without her, unfortunately. His solos on other songs are stellar and perhaps the author simply was referring to Rocky’s overall presence on the album, but there isn’t a solo on this song. And since there is no solo Rock didn’t perform on this song at all, the later fact I can see how that would have eluded the author since the particulars of who played what is buried in the liner notes. Rock came in after songs were complete and then we recorded his solos. And awesome cherry on top.
Although I wasn’t on the Alpha Omega album, it didn’t stop HF from recording my songs. And I am gratified that the author lists OTHER SIDE OF MADNESS as “the best song on the album” since I was the primary writer of the music on that song and many others on that album, I say primary because they just took my existing song, and added an ending to it. I was very saddened when I heard the album with music I wrote that was simply stolen, recorded and presented as if they wrote it themselves and I was uncredited.
There are alot better songs on the actual Cro-Mags records what I believe are far superior to many on this list, but that is down to the individual tastes, I would have mentioned, show you no mercy, down but not out, Tore up and Malfunction. But either way I’m glad all the songs from my high school band are still a topic of conversation long after the band ended. Retro-acts aside.
Hey Parris, Thanks for coming to the site. We do our best to give as much information about a band as we can and of course, sometimes there is not a lot of info on who played on what. We listen to every song, and like you said, song favorites are subjective. In the end, our goal is to turn music fans onto bands like the Cro-Mags and to get them to check your group out even further by buying your records. Your comments are very helpful and offer much more genuine insight into the group. We will do a complete discography on your group soon and try to gather as much complete info as we can. Love these songs. We are here for musicians and songwriters such as yourself!