Song: "Low Self Opinion"
Album: The End Of Silence
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Intensity is one of the most unique aspects in all of music, because while many believe they have it, few possess intensity in its most pure form. Once one experiences raw, uninhibited intensity, those who do not measure up become quickly apparent, and the sound put forth by the true masters never loses its impact. With this in mind, such an emotion often needs ample time to marinate and evolve into its most undiluted form, and one can track this occurrence through the career of Henry Rollins. From his early days within the Washington, DC hardcore scene, to his rise as the frontman of Black Flag, one can hear the shift from wild angst and anger into a concentrated, fierce sound, and it is no surprise that after Black Flag called it quits, Rollins wasted no time in assembling a new group around him. Appropriately dubbed Rollins Band, the group is the logical next step from the heavier sounds that one can hear in the waning days of Black Flag. After releasing a handful of EP’s and LP’s and a few lineup changes, the group found their groove and the sheer force and brilliance that is Rollins Band can be heard on their exceptional 1992 release, The End Of Silence. Bringing a sound that balances the majesty of metal, the ferocity of hardcore, and the intensity of punk all in a single sound, the album crossed into a number of different fan-bases, and in turn, the group garnered one of the most diverse followings of the era. Though each song on the album is nothing short of deadly in its content, few songs from any point in Rollins’ career can compete with the energy and sound that one can experience within Rollins Band’s 1992 single, “Low Self Opinion.”
The essential key to the sound of Rollins Band is without question the screaming guitar work of Chris Haskett. Providing a bite to the music that helps to become far more melodic than “just punk,” Haskett proves that there is a place for both soloing as well as attention to detail within the punk and hardcore styles of music. It is this purposeful move to focus more on the overall musicality that sets Rollins Band aside from the rest of their peers, and countless bands took this formula in the years that followed. Along with Haskett, “Low Self Opinion” provides a dark, yet heavy groove, courtesy of bassist Andrew Weiss. It is this aspect that pushes the song along, and there are many points where the bass seems to take on an intimidating, almost stalking personality. Roudning out the band was drummer Sim Cain, and the chemistry between his playing and that of Haskett is truly uncanny. In a similar manner to the sound of the guitar, Cain is able to give the drumming a fierce, almost violent feel, yet it is a far cry from the “normal” sound of such playing. The fact that he is able to convey such a mood in this way makes all other attempts seem overdone, and again, one cannot ignore the perfect balance between spirit and sound that can be experienced on “Low Self Opinion.” Perhaps the most unique faced of “Low Self Opinion” is the way in which the musicians all come together with a single sound, and yet they each have a clear space on the song all to their own. The attack of the band never relents, and this is much the reason the song remains such a classic of the alternative/hardcore scene.
However, even considering just how brilliant the musicians-strong are on “Low Self Opinion,” there is no getting past the fact that the soul of the song comes from Henry Rollins. Unquestionably one of the most unique voices in the entire history of music, in both his vocal sound and approach, Rollins knows no equal. The gruff, gritty, yet highly emotional delivery that he brings to every song brings together the best of so many of his predecessors, and one can easily argue that it was Rollins’ vocal style that influenced an entire generation of later performers. Much like the music on “Low Self Opinion,” Rollins’ vocal track also has a distinct separation from the rest of the song, yet his incendiary, relentless vocal attack is almost unsettling. It is this ability to deliver with such power and consistency that defined Rollins’ entire career as a frontman, and yet it was rarely as focused or compelling as one finds on “Low Self Opinion.” Along with his delivery that simply cannot be ignored, Rollins is also one of the most insightful and blunt lyricists one can find, and it is on songs such as this that one can fully experience his critical, yet uniquely introspective writing. As was the case even back to his earliest recordings, Rollins often focuses on bettering oneself and refusing to settle for mediocrity. When he delivers lines like, “…get yourself a break from self rejection, try some introspection, and you just might find…it’s not so bad and anyway, at the end of the day, all you have is yourself and your mind…” it is clear that the intent of his words go far beyond that of nearly any other punk or hardcore performer in history.. Combining his perfectly unsubtle lyrics with an unmistakable delivery style, one need look no further than “Low Self Opinion” to fully understand why Henry Rollins stands as such a highly revered figured in the overall history of recorded music.
Though many other bands were louder, and some were able to convey more anger and angst, there were very few group that were able to balance these ideals with superb musical performance in the same manner as one finds in the music of Rollins Band. It is this balance that makes it difficult to label the bands’ sound, as they are not quite hardcore or punk, and perhaps the only fitting way to describe their music is to use the name of the band itself. The name “Rollins Band” alone evokes a certain mood and tone, and it is in this fact that one can understand how the perceived intensity of other bands fails to measure up to the tone and mood found within nearly anything boasting Rollins’ name. Furthermore, it was The End Of Silence that proved Rollins’ amazing abilities as both a vocalists and lyricist, and it was this record that stands as his finest post-Black Flag moment. Though much of the intensity from that band can be heard within “Low Self Opinion,” the larger concentration on creating a more complex musical work only helps to raise that feeling, and one can see this as the culmination of all of Rollins’ previous work. Having surrounded himself with a group of exceptionally talented musicians, one can sense how focused the entire band was at attempting to deliver the most destructive, yet musically sound product possible. The group accomplishes this goal in grand fashion, and there is not another song in history that boasts a punch or tone that comes even remotely close to the musical perfection found on Rollins Band’s exceptional 1992 single, “Low Self Opinion.”