Friday, September 6, 2013

Bl'ast-Blood; Southern Lord, 2013 reissue of 1987 recording

As Disaster Amnesiac has spent the last few days listening obsessively to Blood, Bl'ast's reissue of 1987 recordings, it strikes me that, at that time, they had assumed the mantle of high energy Rock band from Black Flag. You've gotta figure that if Greg had not heard something worthwhile in their twin guitar attack, he would never have bothered to bring them on board at SST Records. As I recall that time, most of the really energetic and creative Rock bands of that period were emerging from within Hardcore Punk, which was definitely the case for Bl'ast.I figure that SST got all kinds of demos from all over the Hardcore scene, and for some reason, they chose Bl'ast. SST's criteria for signing bands were first and foremost musical, as opposed to scene-based, and, as such, Bl'ast obviously passed the test and gained entry. Let's look at these musical merits, shall we?
First and foremost, Disaster Amnesiac would like to describe and enthuse about drummer Bill Torgerson. Some years back, I opined about Bill's SST cohort Jim Thompson of the Alter-Natives, describing him as like an over-caffeinated Tony Williams. Similar adjectives would suffice to describe Bill's playing on Blood in particular within Bl'ast in general. His hyper playing, characterized by fast paced rolling motion, sudden stops, and head over heels tom tom fills, moves the band's tunes with a manic energy. I'd say that his rhythmic conception is a ton less linear than his peers in that era; far from doing the Hardcore Polka beat, Bill is clearly after some inner vibe with his drumming. On occasion his meter wavers, but it's in that wavering that a lot of tension and release feeling is pumped into the tunes, giving added boost to the guitarists' manic energy as a result.
Ah, yes, the guitarists. The dual six string attack of Mike Neider and William Duvall packs such heavy punches throughout the album's eleven tracks. Neider's dramatic lead lines, so sweetly distorted, wend their way through the structures of the tunes while Duvall doubles them into a thick wall of sound. Bl'ast's guitar sounds strike this listener as being rooted as much in Iommi as they are in Ginn. They give off a kind of psychedelic shimmer along with their high end wails and thick, dark chords. Again, reflecting on that time period, Disaster Amnesiac thinks of groups like Void and Corrosion of Conformity, along with Black Flag, of course, as bands that were integrating Hardcore's over the top energy with older Rock's genuine heaviness. Bl'ast's sound fits nicely into that pocket, standing shoulder to shoulder with those great bands in those terms. Bassist Dave Cooper must have had his mind and hands full, what with all of that twelve-stringed din and spastic drumming, and he was clearly up to the task. His presence in the mix is somewhat negligible, but you've got to figure that the rest of the group absolutely depended upon him to keep the melodic lines going in stable rhythm. That era's bass players were definitely not recipients of much glory (well, except for maybe Larry Boothroyd); I can imagine Cooper feeling quietly proud of his prowess as the other instrumentalists in Bl'ast went-the-fuck-off!
Bl'ast lead singer Clifford Dinsmore has always reminded Disaster Amnesiac of a Hardcore Punk version of Apocalypse Now's goofy foot captain, played by Robert Duvall. You know, the "Charlie don't surf" guy, in the way he melds Cali surf cool with a military macho. Dinsmore's lyrics are pretty far removed from being desirous of military action though. They often seem to deal with the inner tensions stemming from reflections upon the impending doom of the planet, or the pains of betrayal within personal relationships. His gravelly Punk Rock delivery, inflected with Santa Cruz surfer drawl, barks them out on point of the rhythm section's alternately stuttering or full throttle changes. Clifford was and remains a unique front man. It's tough not to be effected by his barreling, compelling declamations.
Back in the early 1990's, Disaster Amnesiac paid some attention to Bl'ast's demise. It seemed to be that they were somewhat unfairly attacked and then hounded by the Elite of the Hardcore Scene, and I'm sure that this added to what was already a pretty high strung situation (judging from the intensity of the band's delivery and the low return tenor of those times for real Rock bands). It's really great to hear "new" versions of their tunes at decades' remove from all of the dorky psychodrama.  Their current web page shows shots of the re-vamped group, so hopefully some touring is in the works. Rest assured I'll be blasting my copies of Blood before and after any live appearances that the band may make.

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