Bl’ast – Blood!

The late 1980s was an odd time for Santa Cruz, California based Bl’ast! The band was playing an evolved variant of hardcore while the bulk of the other bands that had started out as hardcore were moving on to either speed metal or college rock. To further complicate matters, Bl’ast!’s second album, It’s In My Blood was released on the then powerhouse label SST, whose flagship bands Husker Du, Meat Puppets and the Minutemen were all riding the post-hardcore wave toward massive popularity. And Black Flag had finally ground to a halt after a spate of turgid jazz/metal releases that were –depending on your perspective – either too adventurous or too pretensions to maintain the band’s original fan base.

Bl’ast! specialized in the lurching hardcore/metal fusion sound of mid-period Black Flag, with maybe a dash of SSD thrown in for good measure. So signing with SST seemed a perfect fit, right?

SST aficionados, following the label into hipsterdom, were apparently over hardcore. Bl’ast! was painted as “the new Black Flag,” which was kinda/sorta true – and not necessarily the most opportune thing to be at the moment as the audience for hardcore was on the wane. Middling responses to It’s In My Blood relegated the band to second or third tier hardcore status in a post-hardcore era. The band sputtered out after 1989’s Take The Manic Ride (also on SST) and was largely forgotten.

Fast forward to 2013 when the folks at Southern Lord acquired studio tapes that predated It’s In My Blood. And here’s where the Atlanta angle comes in.

Former Neon Christ guitarist (and now Alice In Chains frontman) William Kip Duvall played in Bl’ast! for less than a year in 1986. Apparently Duvall’s split with Bl’ast! was acrimonious, as his guitar tracks were scratched from the recording that would become It’s In My Blood. Lo and behold, the newly acquired tapes were the original version with Duvall. After the deft remastering of one Dave Grohl, the tapes are newly released as Blood! And a missing tile in the hardcore mosaic has been restored to its full glory.

So what we have here is a clearer version of It’s In My Blood that – aside from the much better sound quality – isn’t that much different from the 1987 SST release. Granted, Duvall’s guitar playing is more chaotic (and better) than what’s on the 1987 release, but the rest of the performances are the same.

Sure, Bl’ast! used the Black Flag template on each and every one of their songs.  But Black Flag had a great formula. And the songs on Blood! are a lot more intense than what you’ll find on Black Flag’s last couple of albums. This is to say that Bl’ast! is blatantly derivative of Black Flag, but their imitation is so well executed that it’s fucking convincing. Blood! is a powerful recording that probably just fell through the cracks the first time around (as It’s In My Blood) because of unfortunate timing and label affiliation. Let’s hope this souped-up reissue fares better with today’s hardcore/metal crowd.

[Southern Lord]