The Krays spent most of the 1990s and the early part of this century cementing a place for themselves in the NYC punk scene. The Brooklyn-based four-piece have been largely silent, however, since the 2002 release of “A Time For Action.” The long-anticipated release of 2011’s “Sangre” marks a progression in the band’s sound, though its roots are still firmly planted in mid-80s hardcore punk.
“Sangre” was recorded and produced by the band’s frontman, Johnny Kray. The result is a raw, mostly aggressive audio experience that features lyrics in both English and Spanish, a refreshing change from an American band. The majority of the album’s sixteen tracks don’t stray much from the band’s trademark sound: “Vida Profunda,” “The Attack,” and “Simple Band” are straight-forward, early Bad Religion style punk rock tracks, though the latter sounds cheaply recorded compared to the rest of the album and marks “Sangre’s” weakest track by far. “Albizu Campos,” “Warnings” and “Out Of The Darkness” are more along the lines of Strung Out/Lagwagon/early Epi-Fat band metal-infused punk rock.” “Sour Ground,” one of my favorite tracks on the album, reminds me of Diesel Boy.
Sixteen songs can be a lot for a punk rock album, and can result in a listening experience that becomes somewhat muddy due to the repetitive, formulaic sounds that a lot of bands present. “Sangre” is a much easier listen, however, due to the fact that there are a few tracks that deviate widely from the norm. “The Dying Cold” features Clash-style faux-reggae choruses. “Sangre Taina” sounds mostly like an early-80s hardcore track (a la The Cheifs or Dead Boys) but features a heavy, tribal drum inspired outro. “The Reckless Use Of Power” is traditional percussion centered and features a guitar sound and progression that could pass for vintage Black Sabbath (and closes with probably the album’s best guitar solo).
Then, of course, there’s “Mundo Perdido.” While it is arguably the best crafted song on the album (and arguably my favorite from “Sangre”), it sounds out of place enough amongst the rest of the tracks that it made me think I had downloaded the wrong song by mistake. The sound is straight-up Central American traditional, featuring nylon-stringed classical guitar (or perhaps a jarocha) and native percussion instruments. Heck, there may even be a donkey jawbone played in there somewhere. “Mundo Perdido” sounds much more like a standard Gypsy Kings song than a track by an otherwise gritty NYC punk band. But it’s a cool song, and I don’t downgrade the album for having it. I also appreciate that they didn’t cheapen out and include the track at the end of the album or as a bonus track; instead it is track #8, right smack in the middle of the album, and leads into “Warnings,” which features the fury of an early Epitaph recording.
“Sangre” is a pretty solid album altogether. It is certainly a welcome event to see older bands keeping alive the aggression and the DIY ethos of a previous punk rock age. Not all of the tracks are winners, and “Sangre” may still be a track or two too long. But the album’s changes of pace help to make up for whatever may be lacking. Ultimately “Sangre” is more deserving of probably 3.5 stars if we were using a different scale, but alas, we only use whole numbers, so it gets a solid three.