CD Review: Bl'ast! – Blood!

CD Review: Bl’ast! – Blood!
Southern Lord
All Access Rating: A-

Bl'ast! - Blood! 2013
As was made abundantly clear while waxing nostalgic about Sound City in his feel-good documentary film about the place, Dave Grohl plans to put the famed studio’s grand old Neve console – the one that brought to life the magic of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors and Nirvana’s Nevermind – to good use.

Breathing new life into some long-lost vintage master tapes of Santa Cruz hardcore heroes Bl’ast was one of his first orders of business, and he takes a flamethrower to material that was already highly flammable, his remastering and mixing work enhancing the already concentrated violence and red-eyed fury of these unpredictable punk-rock seizures. And he’s just a bit player in this drama, as was William DuVall – now plying his trade with Alice in Chains.

Blood! is reportedly the only document of DuVall making sweet fiery hardcore with Bl’ast. Industrious rhythms and rampaging guitars that are thicker and wider than one would expect are what cause the sudden impact of Blood!, but don’t mistake activity for a lack of musicality. Still, raw power and unbridled fury course through its veins, as the aptly titled Blood! packs enough explosives into these combustible tracks to attract the unwanted attention of the ATF. From the first bruising, urgent rumblings and building momentum of “Only Time Will Tell” to the sharp turns negotiated throughout the blazing “Something Beyond,” the high-octane action of Blood! is breathtakingly fast, aggressive and relentless.

Even while Bl’ast cultivates a resonant, animalistic growl in guitar tone, something most old punks cared nothing about, on Blood! they engage in dizzying shifts of dynamics in “Ssshhh,” “Sometimes” and “Winding Down” while driving impossibly fast, but never recklessly, as they brake and stomp on the accelerator through the stop-start traffic of “Sequel.” Knowing exactly what direction they want to go, Bl’ast feverishly tears through the 1:38 “Poison” – tied for the shortest song on Blood! – as if they have three strikes against them and they’re being chased by California cops, but they never seem desperate or self-destructive.

Then again, jail might be preferable to the unsettling psychology of “Your Eyes,” made even more deliciously disturbing by heavy, almost sludgy, metallic riffs that rise up and look to the heavens for deliverance. If Minor Threat took more of a liking to Black Sabbath and explored slightly longer forms and staged more angular sonic ambushes, all while maintaining its muscular torque, they might have made the tempestuous, biting and brawny Blood! As it is, there are only a few hardcore acts with this kind of DNA, Black Flag being one of them. If Henry Rollins needs a transfusion, he might want to give Bl’ast – these raging sonic contortionists of the highest caliber – a call.
– Peter Lindblad

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