Madball is a particularly polarizing band here. I've always had a fond place in my heart for them, though. Sure, they're not nuclear physicists, but they're honest guys who seem to enjoy what they're doing and genuinely care about it. The music is pretty fun. While it fits a mold, these are guys who were involved in creating that mold, so I don't think you can really blame them for sticking to that end of the "stagnant"/"sellout" rock/hard place.
This is a good album. The songs have hooks, it hits hard, it flows well, and the lyrics...have a nice sound to them. These guys obviously know what they're doing, and they have produced another album up to their standards, to the extent that you like hard-hitting, straightforward, moshable NYHC.
Listening to it, though, I was wondering why I wasn't extremely excited about it as compared with, say, the new Cruel Hand record. Both of these records are straightforward, heavy hardcore, picking up some metal influences without becoming full-fledged metalcore. Both of the records are catchy and pretty easy to listen to. But I think what it comes down to is that, while the Cruel Hand record feels like a collection of songs begging to be recorded, the Madball record seems like a bunch of experienced veterans who decided they wanted to make an album, so they squeezed out some songs.
it's mostly the little things. While the Cruel Hand record has great little moments (e.g. the little laugh at the end of "Cruel Hand"), Empire just feels slightly off. Madball has never been known for its deep lyrics--the goal is more lyrics with flow, with rhymes that connect, and that don't cause you to blush out of embarrassment when singing along. All of that is met here. But at times the lyrics feel like they were forced out. Take the chorus from the first song, "Invigorate": "They evaluate, / we dictate. / They sit and wait, we take charge. / Invigorate." Neither deep nor embarrassing, but still somehow forced.
This sort of sets the tone for the album. It's hard to articulate examples, but even the guitar lines have a similar feel. There are some good moments. "R.A.H.C." is a passionate defense of living hardcore. It's a song that I can see myself continuing to listen to down the line. But the album is a full 16 songs long, which really doesn't seem necessary given that it doesn't feel like they came into the studio with a ton of songs they were desperate to record.
Look, I don't know these guys. Maybe they thought up all these songs on the road, fell in love with them, and needed to get them all out on a record. But they didn't do a good job in conveying it. Maybe just editing a few of the lines that were a little off would have helped.
Anyways, the point is that this is a fun, catchy album, but it's not a great album. You can probably spend a bunch of very enjoyable hours listening to it (again, if you like NYHC). But it's not a classic. Also, some of it is in Spanish.