The Krays "Sangre" Dead City Records
The new Krays - Yes, the Krays that started in 1994 and have been absent for some years now - The new Krays Disc starts off with a charge. Rolling snares and buzzing guitars jump like a brooding superhero that saves you from a nefarious hood in a dark alley. If that seems too fantastical; simply exchange the menacing hood for the system or the diabolical, sinister "man" that cripples, abuses, and gags you everyday. The scenario now is all too fitting. But The Krays are doing what they can.
That first song, "Drone" comes blazing in with a cry for the masses to unify in a dissident backlash against the cell of the system. The government/corporate/media hybrid that is blending our society into a indistinguishable, homogeneous quagmire. "With everything bland, its a nightmare...how can we fight back? they don't fight fair", Johnny yells in despair.
Lyrically and musically we come back to classic Krays. Their hiatus has fused the writing into a missile with a target. Streamlined and focused, this lp is another weapon in the cache of the Krays' 17 year arsenal that remains just as powerful as the angry youth tat spat forth in 1994.
The sound rings familiar, fast punk with a catchiness that is undeniable. The LPs, "Inside Warfare", "A Battle for The Truth", and "A Time for Action", are classic NY punk rock. At the fore front is Johnny Kray. Writing these legendary punk rock tunes. Well, in the recent hiatus of The Krays, Johnny has been doing some reading. Specifically, he has been reading about the lands that Colombus "discovered". His journey began with the 1970 novel "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown (read more...).
He then intended to have a side project, Tainada, that would address the issues of pre-Colombian history in this hemisphere; from the viewpoints of these most impacted.
Unfortunately, i do not speak Spanish. Well, i know a few words, thanks to some hearty kitchen work. and i learned "no mas" immediately. so, i can formulate the sentiment when "Vida Profunda" ends its chorus with "No pueden callarnos mas". This song holds a rigid riff, fast as all get out and immediate in its declaration, in any language.
"Albizu Campos" This raucous romp is tuned a little lower and has a bit more grit to it. This darker feel makes for a great foundation for its fast riffs. It stands out quite well. The song still carries a nice rocking solo; but its main riff is tougher and the bridge apexes into an engaging chorus. The lyrics are still of rebellion, but focuses on his being "sickened and disgusted" by the lies. Despite the catchy chorus, the uglier realities of the man's mental oppression are the target here. In the context of the whole album, it bridges todays punk rebellion with the readings Johnny mentions. With references to "my troops", you know Johnny is placing himself in a struggle of the past; and one larger than himself. But with additional lines such as, "The Right, who gives it in this world?...They try to tell you that they are always right..." it fervently draws a parallel between all those who struggle, past and present.
Another aspect the helps this amalgamation of ideas and emotion and music combine so well together is the drumming. The drums are amazing and a worthy focus to this album. In the liner notes, Kray alludes to the indigenous Cuban and Puerto Rican music, and specifically their rhythms, that helped influence this album. Undeniable. Especially in "A Race Toward the Morning". Back to the faster spitting of riffs. The cymbals are really noticeable as a nice balance to the pummeling snare. And the break down is the driving force, calling on outside influences of those rhythms. "All the facts that disappear..." is a line that summarizes the song well. It is about the conquests of empires in the past; and not just the lives lost, but those lives' histories and truths that are forgotten, erased, and reconfigured when that occurs.
"The Attack" is what is sounds like, an attack. "We're gonna crush both skin and bone!". And The Krays do. In a tale of fighting a war when you are invaded; as a defensive struggle to survive; but a necessary one. The same dark fast fury fuels this punishing tune.
"The Dying Cold" comes next with a ska jump (Hey Laurel Aitken was Cuban. And he took from Calypso, Afro-Cuban, Jamaican, and American Jazz and RnB to create the ska...). It is a contemplative tune. The lyrics and tonality evoke a solemn, hesitant feel. This fits with the lyrics; which could be sung from a lonely, elder punk walking the cold concrete of a wintry New York or from a displaced rebel trying to find footing to embrace for a unknown future.
"Sangre Taina" is the next song. I know "Sangre" means "blood"...like sanguine (Thanks Only Living Witness when i was 16!)...sanguination from Law & Order...Sangria is blood like...okay. i am catching on. The initial word in the song is "Machete". Other words are "corrupcion" and "la cause es fatal". So i must assume it is another tale of invaders coming in and terrorizing and mauling indigenous peoples. Infused in this catchy punk song is a rhythm; and it blends into layers of tribal rhythms and chanting. Pretty cool.
"Mundo Perdido" is a slow Mexican-influenced song. and it is stirring and beautiful. a nice break from the punk rush; and just as strong, just as desperate. Congos and acoustic guitars and shakers (maracas?) all complete the song.
"Warnings" fades in like a helicopter over the horizon. A bass sets the pace and then the drums come stomping in. "The ancients are calling through time with a warning". a nice take on "those who don't learn from the past.." heed. And that is what this album really brings home. If we don't re-examine the past, and try to unearth the truth, then we are damned to relive the tragedies and traumas. again and again.
"We Lose", one of my favorite Krays songs gets an update and ravages your ears. "Stand together punks and skins!"
Back to my Spanish lesson with "?Quien Sabe Mas?". "How much more", maybe...nope. a quick Google shows me it means, "Who Else Knows". i have a lot more homework to do. Well, the music speaks clearly to me. A starker tone and a marching drum pattern with a constant ride cymbal brings in an urgent and hectic feeling, to break for a catchy chorus and gang "Ohh, Ohhs". good stuff.
"Out of the Darkness" Again, the lighter side of the songs but still pushes a charging riff with steady drums. The jnagly bass is mixed well and is the driving force here. Awesome lyrics "When we're nothing more than hatred and war, this madness has got to end. in sight of the shore that we're trying for - the bars that we try to bend, keep us bound".
"Sour Ground" truly stands out to me. a defiant and chaotic riff with rumbling drums make me yeaarh for a Krays' live show as i sit here trapped at my work desk. the screaming of the back ups and the immediacy f Johnny over harsh guitars tease my idle body. And the subject matter of "the genocide. the gore....(and) the saviour (that) didn't come" gets me all riled up. Simple quick, and to the point. punk rock.
and with that template in mind, comes "Simple Man", of a first person nowadays thinking outside the flock. A great new punk anthem.
Ending the fast punk songs is "In the Wars All Around". A siren like metal guitar line opens and repeats in between urgent verses. If this is a set closer like its an lp closer - i can picture bodies coming from everywhere; flying and piling up in the front of the stage. this one is energetic and frenzied.
To end the CD, we get more tribal instruments with a lone distorted guitar repeating the riff it boasts. it is actually is mixed slightly higher than i think it should be. The lyrics and drums should be the focus. The guitar over powers. it doesn't quite work for me. i am sure it was meant to represent both worlds mixing...but at 3:30, with 1:21 left - it gets mixed appropriately and with a bass for a good breakdown and lead. much better, but i think it takes too long to get there. kind of a jam at the end which is cool.
All in all, Production is thick and clean; clear and strong (like "A Time For Actin") The drums truly stand out on this lp. That would most likely be due to the all the influences of the last years coming into play - akin to "Roots" from Sepultura. and extremely well executed. Most punk bands that put over 11 songs on a disk will get mired in repetition of riffs and ideas. the rhytms and the perspective help elevate this CD to a top notch.
Speaking of which - Dead City/The Krays *(ahem...Tiffany form Red Card Hooligan...and Run Like Hell) did an amazing job on the booklet and art. I have a huge fondness for old world maps, so they got e off the bat. And considering the subject matter , it works well. But true detail was put into this, and not just a quick Photoshop gimmick. The color scheme works well. A think inlay of a page per song, adorned with live photos brings it home The Krays are about the scene and family, and the energy of a live show - all these factors come through as you read page by page of the booklet. with CD's dwindling as a product, it validates why this CD deserves your money.
...while many typical bands may come up for the FFO section; in my last two years, i have begun listening to a band that i had written off as generic and repetitive, Pennywise. While this band was heralded by my mates, i often dismissed them. Even though their red logo rests on the flesh of my skinhead brother, along side Cockney Rejects, Blitz, and Combat 84 tattoos; i still neglected them until one song ("Broken") triggered a fondness and the subsequent purchasing of three albums. And i cannot deny the similarity in the sound of this Krays' album. Which is weird, for the cleaner, skate punk, pop flare of those Cali dudes which i associate with that sound. But it is what is.
Of course, there are still comparisons drawn to older US punk and classic UK punk bands.
Menace. Cockney Rejects. Blitz, The Strike. (sped up) Red Alert. (Cleaner) GBH or Exploited. (a little) Adicts or 999
I would also point to 2k-era peers from Sweden, The Jinx. A heavier, fast as hell catchy spikes and leather punk band of deserved notoriety.
phew. that was a lot. but someone who puts that much into their music deserves that much put into a review.
If and when i can stop listening to this new punk gem (important as ever in 2011 U.S.), i will try to do some reading of this albums influences. And do some Spanish translating.
Damn fine release. Top notch. Cheers!...don't be a drone!
The Krays Home
Buy at RevHQ
" Sangre was self-recorded and produced by guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Rosado (aka Johnny Kray) at his home studio in New York City. The record features a potent blend of punk, hardcore, and metal, with memorable and thoughtful lyrics presented in both English and Spanish. "