Time was when things were looking decidedly rosy for Swedish quartet Blindside. Best mates with Atlantic Records’ then best-selling artists P.O.D., signed to the Californians’ fledgling record label Three Points, and two critically acclaimed albums produced by hot-shot Howard Benson – what could go wrong?
Well, never mind Three Points, how about three words – “record company politics”. A record company merger here, a lack of promotion there, and 2004’s About A Burning Fire album – even guest starring a certain Billy Corgan on one track – barely got a release outside the US.
Still, you can’t keep a good band down it seems. Not only did About A Burning Fire still manage to shift 300,000 copies through Blindside’s dedicated fanbase but the band have regained control of their back catalogue and hooked up with DRT, the relatively new label set up by industry shakers Derek Shulman, Ron Urban and Ted Green.
The first fruits of this marriage are the remastered, repackaged, beefed-up-with-extra-tracks Blindside and A Thought Crushed My Mind albums, which were originally released in 1997 and 1999 respectively, but are only now getting a proper UK outing. And it’s fair to say we’ve been missing out. Big time. Blindside is an astonishingly assured – and original – debut album that would still wipe the floor with most of the hardcore albums released today.
Invert is a stunning opener and tells us all we need to know with bass and drums beating as one to creating an almost funky, Red Hot Chili Peppers backdrop to the shards of distorted, ascerbic hardcore guitars. Meanwhile, Christian Lindskog’s vocal switches adeptly from semi-rap to metallic scream like the flick of a switchblade. The rest of Blindside does not disappoint either from Born, which proves that Blindside had melodic credentials far in advance of the commercial sheen displayed on their major label albums, to the stop-start dynamics of the discordant yet somehow harmonious Never. And how on earth Superman – a hugely chorus-ed monster with chunky metallic riffage – wasn’t a hit I’ll never know.
A Thought Crushed My Mind is a different animal, but a beast it certainly is. This was Blindside in their “true hardcore” phase, hammering out abrasive blasts of aggression that position themselves angrily between the pioneering punk of fellow countrymen Refused and more recent, chaotic noise merchants Norma Jean.
Yet, again, A Thought Crushed My Mind shows a band with more creativity and tricks up its sleeve than most heavy bands have had guitar strings snap. On As You Walk, My Mother’s Son and the wonderfully restrained yet utterly visceral Nothing But Skin, for instance, they introduce instruments such as the cello, not formerly known as something your average Fugazi-worshipping hardcore kid first thinks of playing. And that’s not to mention the bizarre yet rather cool [Phatbeat 1303], which uses real drums, bass and scything guitars in an electronic, dancefloor-baiting mash-up.
In truth, the extra tracks on Blindside and A Thought Crushed My Mind are of interest value only. Those on the former illustrate that the band made the wise decision not to pursue the all-out rap influence that energised but often plagued late ’90s metal, while on the latter we get a set of good, ragged, metal-tinged punk tunes.
It is on Nerve that Christian can be heard defiantly screaming: “I’m not ashamed! I’m not ashamed!” On the evidence of these two albums, shame is the very opposite of what Blindside should feel. Top stuff.