The Expression of Power

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SST Records released nearly a hundred albums between 1986 and 1987, a huge amount of product for most labels, let alone a small indie operation, and while most folks vividly remember the material they put out by the Meat Puppets, Sonic Youth, fIREHOSE, Dinosaur Jr., or the Bad Brains during this era, does anyone clearly recall the Treacherous Jaywalkers, Scott Colby, Blind Idiot God, Slovenly, or Angst in the 21st Century? Bl'ast! were yet another band that filled out the SST roster without generating much serious buzz outside their home town of Santa Cruz, California, but their profile got a massive boost in 2013 when Dave Grohl revealed he'd been a huge Bl'ast! fan back in the day, and volunteered to help remix some long-lost tapes from the era of 1987's It's in My Blood, which appeared on Southern Lord under the title Blood! Now Southern Lord has unearthed more Bl'ast! arcania for those interested in reevaluating the band; The Expression of Power includes Bl'ast!'s 1986 debut album, The Power of Expression, in its entirety along with an earlier pass at the album that the group decided to shelve. In many respects, Bl'ast! sound like Black Flag's little brother band here (no wonder they ended up on SST), playing a similar fusion of amped-up punk and twisted metal but with fewer stylistic affectations; vocalist and lyricist Clifford Dinsmore sounds leaner and more wiry than Henry Rollins, but he just about matches him for sheer rage, and guitarist Mike Neider lays out harsh, dirty leads that veer into feedback and dissonance as he weaves upside-down metal riffage through a wall of punk downstrokes. If these guys wanted to be Black Flag, The Expression of Power suggests they got closer to that goal than most bands ever would, and in the best moments here, they had the metal side of the formula worked out better than Greg Ginn did despite plenty of trying. And judging from the two versions of the album that appear here, Bl'ast! were smart enough to know when to go for a second take; the 1984 Hollywood tapes don't have quite the same fire or muscle as the final version laid down in Santa Cruz in 1985, which sounds more adventurous than what they cut a year before. The Expression of Power is no lost masterpiece, but it confirms Dave Grohl wasn't wrong for thinking these guys had something, and is a potent reminder that Black Flag weren't the only band to lay out the template for metalcore in the 1980s.

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