Black On Black: A Tribute To Black Flag Review
I did not grow up on Black Flag. I'm going to admit that first off. A lot of people currently in the hardcore scene grew up listening to this great band, but unfortunately, they had broken up before I was even born. I have only recently had the pleasure of discovering their music, and as much as I like them, I am as familiar (if not more familiar) with the work of some of the bands performing on this compilation than I am with them.
In fact, it was my admiration for Henry Rollins that led me to Black Flag. I have seen interviews, clips of his spoken word recordings, even some of his writings. I was halfway through "Get In The Van" when I got the opportunity to do this review and I pounced on the opportunity.
Most Precious Blood kicks things off with a rousing cover of "Rise Above". Apparently they do the cover a lot at their live shows, and it shows, as they nail it. The energy and urgency of the original is retained, and the production is great too. Zao does an interesting take on "Black Coffee", making it sound somehow doomy and dirgy, perhaps due to the production. Not that it's a bad thing; on the contrary, this is one of the highlights of the album. The trademark raspy vocals are intact (they were one of the first "metalcore" bands to do that). Bleeding Through's rendition of the title track from "My War" sounds a lot like the original, but without the energy of Henry Rollins maniacal vocals. I wish there was a cover of a song from the second half of the album, the one that divided a lot of fans. It would be interesting to see a band from the NOLA sludge scene cover one of those three longer, doomier tracks. The Black Dahlia Murder and Remembering Never trudge through unremarkable covers of "I've Heard It Before" and "Spray Paint The Walls". Drowningman's version of "Loose Nut" is instrumentally sound, but the relatively flat vocals disappoint. American Nightmare (aka Give Up The Ghost), one of the truer (read: non-metalcore) bands on here, do an absolutely ripping cover of "Depression", which I would say is another highlight of this disc. Anodyne do "Life Of Pain" and slow down the song some, making for an approach different than most of the other bands on here. Burnt By The Sun sound very convincing with their take on "Drinking and Driving", especially the vocals. Look out for the "reunion' album they'll be putting out later this year.
Finally we get to Coalesce. Their version of "Jealous Again" begins faithfully with the banging on the piano, but after that there is not much resemblance to the original. Sean Ingram's vocals are completely different from the punkier vocals on the original. This would definitely piss off Black Flag purists, but being a huge fan of Coalesce I must say I love this rendition. If it comes down to it this is probably my favorite song on the album. Either this one or the track that follows it: "Annihilate This Week" as done by Converge. Converge has long been one of my all time favorite bands, and they put their trademark on this classic with Jacob Bannon's distinctive vocals. There is some impressive blasting on the drums, and the chorus is great as well. The lo-fi production adds to the raw, primal quality of the song, making it another highlight of this compilation. "Damaged" is covered by Dillinger Esacpe Plan, and them being the band that they are, I don't think I need to say much about this song. Very well executed, though the vocals sound nothing like Henry Rollins. The Hope Conspiracy's take on "Nervous Breakdown" isn't nearly as convincing, as it loses the punk energy of the original. Planes Mistaken For Stars are somewhat of an anomaly here, as their post-hardcore sound is different than a lot of the other bands, but they do a good job with "Wasted/Police Story". The final track, the classic "Six Pack", is done by a band I'd never heard of before, Playing Enemy. Not too impressive, perhaps because the original is too perfect to be messed with (and is probably my favorite Black Flag song).
So, if you're interest in hardcore is just forming, this wouldn't be a bad place to start. But definitely buy "Damaged" or the "First Four Years" compilation with it to get a true sense of what Black Flag stood for.
1. Rise Above - Most Precious Blood
2. Black Coffee - Zao
3. My War - Bleeding Through
4. I've Heard It Before - The Black Dahlia Murder
5. Spray Paint the Walls - Remembering Never
6. Loose Nut - Drowningman
7. Depression - Give Up the Ghost
8. Life of Pain - Anodyne
9. Drinking and Driving - Burnt by the Sun
10. Jealous Again - Coalesce
11. Annihilate This Week - Converge
12. Damaged - The Dillinger Escape Plan
13. Nervous Breakdown - The Hope Conspiracy
14. Police Story/Wasted - Planes Mistaken for Stars
15. Six Pack - Playing Enemy
(My picks in bold)
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