Bad Brains – Bad Brains (1982)

Early English and US hardcore punk served as important catalysts in the development of underground metal. During the earliest years of the 1980s, it was hardcore punk and not metal that provided the most violent and intense music within grasp of disgruntled and alienated kids attempting to survive the suburbs of Western Civilization.

Although it could be argued that metal bands soon caught up and made a better version, what ultimately sealed the fate of hardcore punk was that it worked within a very limited musical framework, based primarily upon direct visceral communication of raw emotion. It was thus easy to produce — any retard can scream his lungs out and/or bash out a few power chords without much further ado — but all the more difficult to do well, much like underground metal to follow. The punk “scene” was quickly flooded with music that was either moronic or propaganda (frequently both) and the whole thing imploded and became nothing more than a promise unfulfilled.

Even many of the better bands of the time could never get past a state of raging discontent that worked well for emotional release, but didn’t hold up for long-time exposure. Only a handful of hardcore punk acts managed to get a point across that reached beyond a general sense of discontent, many of which have had a standing influence on metal or who themselves were affected by metallic bands. The main pantheon of punk artists within the metal community are rightfully reserved for influential bands like Discharge, Amebix and the Misfits, but there were indeed others that produced, strong and forceful music which might resonate well with a metal spirit.

Undoubtedly the most musically gifted band in the early hardcore punk scene, Bad Brains began their career as a progressive jazz/rock outfit a la Mahavishnu Orchestra but took a complete stylistic U-turn after being introduced to early punk rock and metal like Sex Pistols, Ramones and Black Sabbath. In addition to punk, the band developed a parallel passion for Rastafarian religion and its musical counterpart: reggae music. Their iconic 1982 release Bad Brains (aka The ROIR Tape) give witness to an amalgamation of the above-mentioned influences filtered through the speedy intensity of hardcore punk, although the reggae songs are mostly purely in that genre.

Most interesting is definitely the hardcore punk portion of the band’s repertoire. Often reaching frenetic paces, the music is maneuvered with high levels of precision and finesse, featuring world-defining, often metallic riffs and blistering guitar solos sequenced into the type of straightforward, riff-based songs structures emblematic of early hardcore. What is most remarkable about the music could best be described as spirituality. While most hardcore punk consists of gratifying but ultimately aimless bursts of rage, the music of the Bad Brains overflows with positive energy and exhibits a lucid sense of purpose, as if simultaneously carrying within it a potency for both destruction and constructive change. This has perhaps as much to do with the animated performances of the musicians as it does with the compositions in themselves. Either way, these two aspects of the music works in perfect resonance here, and lifts the music out of its genre context and into the skies.

To make this kind of music requires a type of conviction which manifests itself outside of the purely musical sphere as well. The Bad Brains’ unequivocal embrace of nationalism and outspokenness concerning certain moral issues has caused shuddering outrage within the hardcore community through the years; this probably tells us more about the ideological blindfoldedness of the punk scene than anything else. This didn’t stop the band from getting quite popular later on in their career, particularly with the well-received and commercially successful album I Against I (1985). Still, it is their earliest releases that shines the brightest, and definitely the ones that holds up best for repeated play.

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21 thoughts on “Bad Brains – Bad Brains (1982)”

  1. S.C. says:

    Great article! This band needed some positive exposure here, especially after how Daniel talked about then. And it’s even better coming from since you seem to be this website’s final bastion of quality and interesting writingwriting.

  2. GGALLIN1776 says:

    To me, bad brains was always crap…. I think they just got acclaim for being black. There’s plenty of early 80s HC that was far better. Even Black Flags lowest point was much higherthan B.B’s peak.

    1. JohnnyReb says:

      I agree with you here. Weird.

  3. Marc Defranco says:

    This album is classic. One of the few punk albums I can still listen to and fully appreciate. So many bands now make me cringe even the Dead Kennedys

  4. 1349 says:

    “Every nation shall bow to Jah(hwe)”, yeah wwwight…

    1. LostInTheANUS says:

      So Bad Brains aren’t our kongoids?

  5. Daniel Maarat's tiny, smelly, smega encrusted penis says:

    Hello Mallrat.

  6. nazi skinhead 88 says:

    excellent article. about time that you guys continued rating fairly.

  7. Anthony Lang says:

    Yes bad brains are black, however,that should not be the reason people like or dislike them. This band has had a positive influence in modern metal. I grow up in the 1980’s and remember the music at the time most of it being lame. In 1989 I discover bad brains, it was unlike anything that I had ever heard. The speed at which they played,the ability to stop on a dime, combined with the musicianship of the band, made other bands examine the quality of their product. Bad Brains is the band that influences other bands. I remember being a Metallica fan when a lot of people didn’t think much of them. They played to fast and did not make sense look at them now. With Bad Brains and Metallica these bands led metal into new direction making bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains acceptable.

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      I’ve consciously listened to a Soundgarden track for the first time in my life some weeks ago — sounded like an attempt to make “Led Zeppelin”-flavoured 1980s pop.

  8. Trashchunk says:

    “When deathmetal.org attempts to discuss punk/hardcore with any authority” ;)

    1. Titus Pullo says:

      We don’t give a flying fuck what the punks think about their own music. Their music is repetitive dog shit for the most part. They eat shit and like it. What most of them think about anything is irrelevant.

  9. Claudia Soulroth says:

    Nothing wrong with the Brains despite maybe HR’s, regardless it is quite suspicious that Brett’s sockpuppet goes so easy on them. Clearly the politcal degenerates of this site like the idea of black nationalism way too much and secretly hope bands like Bad Brains might influence those gullible negroes to kindly remove themselves from white countries.

    As far as punk style albums go this is clearly the best as far as musicianship, harmonization and riff building goes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJOCgGM3_DY

    1. Ol` Grouch says:

      Bands using humor aren`t taken lightly around these parts, ya hear!

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        Laughably aping something is a pretty poor kind of ‘humor’.

    2. Rainer Weikusat says:

      JFTR: The German rot means red, not rot. The latter would be verrotten or verfaulen in case it’s a verb. There’s no German noun corresponding with the former (except the rather clumsy Verrottung) but the second one could be used to translate the probably intended meaning of Soulroth back into German as Seelenfäule — would be a beautiful name for a black metal band.

  10. Rainer Weikusat says:

    Judging from a perfectly aimless sample of contemporaries, the Bad Brains are obviously outstanding among their peers. But in absolute terms, that’s not much: Hardcore sensation! Can obviously tell the front from the back of their instruments!! Apart from that, this is professionally executed, nice & warm “let’s have a good time” (slightly wonky) uptempo punk.

    Compared to something like

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpvz0Tomtlc

    which – be it »aimessly«, no future’s not much of a perspective – captures a bit of the essence of “Augsburg, 1983 AD”, this is poor.

    1. Spinal says:

      Well said, Rainer.

  11. 0011971 says:

    Die Kruezen’s debut LP is probably the most technically accomplished work to come out of the first wave of American hardcore. Tighter and more intricate than the Bad Brains I would say. Voivod took a lot of influence from it.

    1. 0011971 says:

      *Die Kreuzen

    2. Spinal says:

      Good point, not going to argue with that except noting that both bands were obviously accomplished musicians in their own fields. It doesn,t seem to far off to assume that Bad Brains influenced Voivod as well, although the influence of Die Kreutzen is likely easier to spot. Die Kreutzen deserves a review one day…

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