Friday, February 13, 2009

February 13: Black Flag, "Damaged"

Artist: Black Flag
Album: Damaged
Year: 1983
Label: SST

In 1983, seminal hardcore band Black Flag found themselves beginning a new (and final) chapter in their career. With their third singer (Henry Rollins) in tow, they entered SST studios and recorded one of the most important hardcore albums ever, Damaged.

The album gives no warning, obliterating the listener immediately with the angst-ridden anthem , "Rise Above." The entire album is packed with fast hitting, rageful, music attacks. Taking a nod from The Ramones, only three songs even reach the three minute mark, with five songs not even taking two minutes. Taking on issues from being marginalized by society, to police brutality, to the pointlessness of drinking and drugs, the band gives a peek into the power and energy of their legendary live performances with this studio recording.

What sets Damaged apart from the earlier Black Flag releases is undoubtedly the addition of Rollins on vocals. His delivery is far more confrontational and aggressive than his predecessors. Rollins doesn't really sing, he speaks forcefully; or as some call it, yells. The vocal punch he provides is an ideal compliment to the ferocity and chaos of the music behind him. With his attitude behind the mic, Black Flag's songs went from "angry" to "riot-inducing."

The powerhouse behind Black Flag was, and always will be, the incredible writing and guitar work of guitarist and band founder Greg Ginn. Ginn plays relentlessly at a breakneck speed through the entire record. The rhythm section, while accomplished in their own right, are obviously doing all they can to simply keep up with Ginn. The songs Ginn wrote for Damaged explode off of the record and are a sure-fire way to get anyone "pumped up." As Rollins himself once said, "...he had written the perfect songs for a full scale riot..."

As a band, Black Flag are one of the founders of what is now refered to as "hardcore punk." Their "take no prisoners" attitude and well-known rigerous work ethic gave them a sound and reputation that has been strived for, but unequaled since. Their 1983 release, Damaged, introduced the world to the raw power of vocalist Henry Rollins, and further cemented their legacy. To find a record that has an equal sense of urgency is nearly impossible, and everyone should experience the sheer force of this notorious group.

Standout tracks: "Rise Above," "Police Story," and "Damaged 1."

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