As reported on by basically every publication ever since bourgeois liberals were forced to learn the name ‘Bad Brains‘ by the graceful ascent of nebulous DC Rastagandist hardcore act into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reject status, singer H.R. (Huge Rasta) is preparing to undergo brain surgery to correct SUNCT (Section-8 Unemployed Nation-of-Islam Crackrock Tension) on February 21. Huge Rasta has been using “holistic substances” to treat his bad brain. I asked my girlfriend what she thought, given that she listens to music that is thematically much more similar to Bad Brains (i.e. Minor Threat, Black Flag, MOI, TLC, Destiny’s Child, Kelis, Lady, et al) and she pointed out that the guy from Bad Brains has a bad brain. In addition to being a woman, she is wrong inasmuch as the soberly considered thematic direction of the album is that of facilitative Afropunk proto-nationalism. H.R. even managed to upset the singer of Cro-Mags by playing Louis Farrakhan tapes in the van.
Metalheads tend to be wary of punk, recognizing it only for its role as an influence on metal. This attitude obscures the fact that the best of punk is worth exploring on its own terms and merits, starting with perhaps the greatest influence of punk technique and heightened aesthetics in that genre, hardcore punk‘s The Misfits.
Conqueror wanted to be a part of the “scene” but did not have musical ideas. The band discovered that the muddied sound of early Beherit and Blasphemy circa Fallen Angel of Doom could be used to obfuscate their dearth of ideas. Furthermore the hostility between the Norwegian scene and the rest of black metal could be amplified under false pretenses while not offering any truly satisfying alternative themselves. Basically, point to candy assed pop drivel like Dark Funeral but go to the other end of the spectrum entirely with a paper thin wall of television white noise with a drunken chipmunk howling nonsense. Conqueror’s “music” is structured which ironically stands contra to the concept of all out war. A little anarchy would at the very least allow the essence of battle to bubble up from the pot. Instead it’s a tame morass of very low effort grindcore riffs and mostly incomprehensible low E-string noodling. The best that can be said about Conqueror is that J. Reed has an identifiable sound.
Riffless war metal/noise punk trolls Conqueror are having their only album, War Cult Supremacy, repressed on LP and CD by Nuclear War Now! A bonus live DVD is included too.
Discharge announced their rescheduled tour dates after being forced to cancel their summer tour due to visa issues.
Coming soon to a used CD bin near you!
Maryland Deathfest once again has visa troubles forcing the cancellation of a headliner. Sodom‘s visa troubles last year led to the cancellation of their headlining appearance on the main stage of the parking lot festival. Now, British hardcore legends Discharge (the originators of d-beat hardcore) get the short end of the stick from the Baltimore festival’s disorganization.
“Punk’s not dead,” goes the old joke, “It’s only sleeping.” Since the mid-1980s, very little of interest has come from the punk community as it has struggled to deal with its popularity. Teenagers want rebellious music, but they want it to be safe enough that they can use it for those difficult teen years, then move on to lite jazz and album-oriented rock as they age.
As a result, punk became a market, and that market favored brain-dead angry rebellion that did not shake any actual foundations but simply attacked socially-acceptable enemies with a more angry approach. Punk went Leftist in the 1980s, but it is more accurate to say it “went bourgeois,” or searching for targets it could bash without really offending anyone. It is always acceptable to target cops and Hitler, but not so much to mention anything which could make us all doubt our participation in society.
The Cro-Mags were a breath of fresh air in this dying scene. Like other classics of hardcore punk — Amebix, Discharge, The Exploited, Black Flag — they paired a Leftist distrust of the profit motive with a right-wing view that human culpability at the individual level was destroying our society from within. This complex view makes for uneasy coexistence with people who depend on both profit motive and patriotic views of strong defense and economy.
Harley Flanagan, bassist and founding member of the Cro-Mags who identifies Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead as his greatest influence, drove his band to create a form of punk that was actually rebellious. For many of us, “World Peace” was an early Red Pill, awakening us to the fact that the most cherished values of our society were in fact moronic illusions that were consequently quite popular. People love an excuse to turn off the brain and go with the flow.
Nothing as intense as the Cro-Mags could last, and after a brilliant first album (The Age of Quarrel in 1986) the band struggled with internal instability, putting out a speed metal influenced album (Best Wishes in 1989) and a softer, more contemplative and Hindu-influenced take on punk with Alpha Omega (1992) and Near Death Experience (1993). One version of the band released a followup in 2000, and several compilations have tried to resurrect the early material, most notably the demo/live compilation Before the Quarrel (2000).
Cro-Mags, the most recent solo offering from Flanagan, channels quite a bit of rage at the personality conflict behind the collapse of this once-great band, but also at the collapse of hardcore itself. Interestingly, it merges the speed metal era Cro-Mags with their earlier intensity to come up with a metal-influenced (but not metal-flavored) blast of rage and melancholic isolation.
Songs on this album take a form of simple riff loops with introductions and interludes, often fading out in explosive and sometimes bluesy solos. Musical focus targets a good solid riff and a strong chorus that plays off the tension in that riff, guided by the vocals of Flanagan which vary between angry riot shouts and a type of unnervingly emotional but aggressive singing that has never been done successfully in hardcore before.
Like most return albums, this is a foray that tests different waters. The band experiments with — or mocks — Pantera-style riffing on “I’ll Fuck You Up” and revisits punk and metal riff archetypes with earlier songs. None of these are off-the-shelf however; in each one, the riffing remains distinct enough to be its own entity, a hybrid of Motorhead and punk hardcore and the aggressive speed metal from Slayer, Exodus and Metallica with a voice unique to itself.
The question before the reviewer is not whether Cro-Mags is a decent comeback album or an acceptable substitute for the Cro-Mags, but whether the music stands on its own. Over the course of several listens, I have concluded that it deserves listening on its own merit. These are aggressive but thoughtful songs with a core of dissident outlook not toward politics, but toward humanity and its default impulses as a whole, and in so doing it continues and enhances the best of what hardcore punk had to offer.