Album Review: Bl'ast - Blood!
Both as a journalist, and as someone with an interest in heavy guitar music, it's difficult for me to admit the staggering gaps in my knowledge. I wish I could say I know more than I do about every aspect of the music we cover here, but I came to the party late, and with a musical basis predetermined that makes it difficult for me to appreciate certain types of heavy music in anything but an intellectual way. One of those gaps in my knowledge is punk/hardcore. Aside from a few works that managed to cross over into the mainstream, I can't recall more than a handful of punk songs I've ever sat down and listened to.
That doesn't make me the ideal person to review “Blood!”, an album of lost recordings that is just now being given a resurrection. Capturing the band in a period where current Alice In Chains singer William Duvall played second guitar, and remastered by none other than Dave 'the current savior of guitar music in the mainstream' Grohl, “Blood!” could easily be seen as an album more interesting for the story behind it than the actual music.
“Blood!” is pretty much exactly what you would expect a twenty year old punk album to sound like; grimy in all the right places, loose with the beat, and not the least bit concerned with being perfect. There's something about these old recordings, with amps that weren't designed to be crushing metal machines, that gives off a different feeling than anything modern bands are able to capture. The guitar tones on the record are thick and organic, and give a great heft to the music.
Those guitars are the best thing about the record, which doesn't do a whole lot to make me believe its hibernation was a bad thing. The two components of punk that I have in mind are both missing on all but a few fleeting moments of the album. There's little audible anger to be found, despite the grizzled vocal approach, nor is there any sort of infectious energy. Rather than sounding like a rallying call to fight the power, these songs are more insular and introverted. Listening to them doesn't make me want to take up the cause.
It doesn't help matters that the opening one-two punch of “Only Time Will Tell” and “Ssshhh” are extended songs that drag on more than punk music should. There's not a lot of focus in the compositions, nor are there enough solid hooks to justify the lengths. But the biggest offender on the record are those vocals, a horrid, affected howl that neuters even the good moments. The lyrics are rendered unintelligible, the hints of melody are sanded flat, and the very tone of voice is off-putting. Yes, there's a bit of that in every punk band, but not to the point of making it difficult to listen to the record at all.
Maybe someone more well-versed in punk history would be able to tell you about the historical significance of Bl'ast, but I don't know enough about punk to put the band, or this record, in its proper context. All I can say is what I hear, and it's nothing that demands to be listened to, unless the story behind the album makes you curious about what the scene was like back in the day. But in the here and now, I have far too much better music to listen to for “Blood!” to take up much of my time.