Santa Cruz hardcore legends Bl'ast! were a quickly burning fuse of raw energy and righteous noise in the early days of the scene's explosive and exploratory beginnings. Leaving behind just a few albums, Bl'ast! were relegated to the rare category of hardcore bands that stuck around for just the right amount of time, active for a good several years, but not long enough to put out too many spotty albums, have any unfortunate changes in artistic direction, or simply run out of steam, all pitfalls some of their contemporaries faced. Blood!, released in 2013, is a curious extension of the Bl'ast! story. The 11 songs that make up Blood! were found on a deteriorating master tape in a storage locker by guitarist Mike Neider sometime in 2012. The tapes contained an unreleased recording session by a mid-'80s lineup of the group, with fidelity weathered by years of storage. Nirvana/Foo Fighters member and Bl'ast! superfan Dave Grohl was called in to mix the tapes once they were restored, and the resultant album is a picture of Bl'ast! deep into their groove, riding out the youthful energy that they began with but in sharper control of the rougher edges of their sound. The set begins with the relentless bass rush and dissonant guitar clusters of "Only Time Will Tell." The song is long for hardcore, stretching past the five-minute mark with multiple sections. Though no exact recording dates are given, it is known that this lineup of the band included second guitarist William DuVall, adding extra grit and an almost pre-metal brassiness to many of the tracks. The band's approach to the songs is extremely similar to later Black Flag, tuning in to the same mix of sludgy breakdowns, anguished vocal delivery, and riffs that blended proggy time shifts and dissonant jazz scales with metallic bombast. Singer Cliff Dinsmore's darkly introspective approach sounds similar to a young Henry Rollins while also predicting the self-assessment of the emo and straight-edge scenes that would shortly follow. Unlike the often thin and rushed production of latter-day Black Flag albums, tracks here like the plundering "Your Eyes" and the plodding, bass-driven "It's in My Blood" are thick and unrelenting, possibly due to the updated mix by Grohl. Captured sometime after the quick-and-sloppy style of early West Coast punk and before that denigrated into metal tendencies or the aggressive chops of straight-edge and early-'90s hardcore, Blood! is an incredible document of a band between these worlds. It's menacing, brutal, paranoid, ugly, and impeccably practiced, reminding us of the power of hardcore in the SST days, even as they were morphing into new inspirations.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas