There’s an old adage that goes something like “punk’s not dead, it just smells that way”. BL’AST! seemed to have been a goner, but clearly fate had other ideas. There’s definitely an element of HP Lovecraft’s Reanimator surrounding the release of Blood and everyone’s favourite rock legend Dave Grohl takes on the mantle of Herbert West in this particular version of the story.
BL’AST! was a hardcore band that existed back in the mid-’80s. They released three albums through SST and had something of a cult following. The band ceased to exist in 1990 and although they did reunite briefly in 2001 they failed to really get back up and running.
And so, BL’AST! has remained dormant in an apparently eternal slumber; yet with stranger aeons even death may die. When guitarist Mike Neider discovered some old master tapes, there seemed to be a bit of life in BL’AST! even after all these years. Neider sent the tapes to Southern Lord’s Greg Anderson, who enlisted Dave Grohl to try and rescue the recordings. Considering the tapes had been sat undiscovered for 25 years and needed a fair bit of work to remedy the effects of deterioration, it would not have been a surprise to find that Blood! was beyond help. One listen to the album however, and it’s clear that Grohl’s re-mixing and repair work is quite astonishing. Every track on the album sounds punchy and crackles with energy; if the back-story wasn’t already well established, it would be easy to assume that BL’AST! had secretly reformed and recorded the album just a few months ago.
Musically, this is not an album that’s going to cause the earth to shift on its axis. Those already familiar with BL’AST! will know what to expect. Their form of hardcore is slightly more progressive than the likes of Minor Threat for example and Blood! is evidence that the band was well versed in taking a wild eyed charge and evolving it into something more complex and thoughtful. The opening rumble of Time Will Tell hints at Killing Joke’s The Wait before unleashing a riff that would quite happily nestle on an old school thrash album.
From there, they launch into more familiar hardcore territory. The speed of Bad Brains is evoked and the guttural but intelligent roar of Black Flag is also evident, particularly on the likes of Poison. Although the influences and similarities to their contemporaries are all obvious, BL’AST! still cut their own furrow. They throw in crafty off kilter guitar licks and tempo changes and occasionally opt for an occasional creeping dirge riff. Sequel for example begins as chaotic squall of guitars and tumbling drums, briefly flirts with a sludge riff that Flipper would have been proud of and heads off into a razor-sharp flurry of heads down punk fury.
They close with It’s In My Blood, a straight up hardcore tune adorned with discordant guitar interjections and a palpable sense of tension as the song builds towards its climax. It’s further evidence of a band taking the hardcore blueprint, and doing their own thing with it.
Whilst this is an album that harks back to a scene and a sound the enjoyed its heyday some 25-30 years ago, it still manages to sound fresh, exciting and somehow, new. As a historical artifact, fans of hardcore and BL’AST will surely be rubbing their hands together (this is after all the only recording BL’AST made with William Duvall on guitar – he’s now Alice In Chains’ vocalist), but there’s more to enjoy here than its relic status. There’s some seriously vital hardcore tunes to be enjoyed and that alone makes the reanimation of Blood! more than worthwhile.