joshthevegan: (Hank)

By the time Life Time (the first album under the Rollins Band banner) arrived, Henry had already released one full length and an E.P. with guitarist Chris Haskett which quelled any concern people might have had about his ability to thrive without (Black Flag guitarist) Greg Ginn. Haskett cut his teeth playing in Ginn's instrumental project Gone where he clearly learned a thing or two about atonal, jazz-influenced rock which he used as a foundation to add his own blues, funk, and soul influences. His abilities and creativity were at least the equal of his mentor, if not slightly stronger.

The arrival of bassist Andrew Weiss and drummer Sim Cain helped to add focus to Haskett and Rollins vision. With a rock solid, crushing rhythm section, Haskett's stellar fretwork and Hank's legendary vocals, the Rollins Band had arrived with Life Time. Stylistically, it is not a huge step away from the later Black Flag records or Hot Animal Machine, though Ian MacKaye's production lends the set a bit more muscle then it's predecessors. It wouldn't be until the next time the Rollins Band headed into the studio that hints of the dynamic funk they would gain (comparative) fame with would appear; this time around aggressive, barely contained blasts of post-hardcore rock are on the menu, and what a feast it is.

The artwork (care of Stephen Meyers) is direct and to the point, intense and unrelenting with no frills. A fitting tone for Life Time, to be sure. The band would continue with album art very similar to this (completely black and white with the same lettering for the text) for their next few releases, until The End Of Silence broke the mold for the Rollins Band, in more ways than one.

For better or worse, Rage's self-titled debut is one of the most influential records of the last two decades. Although the rap/metal genre is largely saturated with music that is mildly annoying at best and unlistenable at worst, this early example of this blend of genres is incredibly successful and still sounds great today.

The cover art features a picture of Thich Quang Duc's legendary protest in a busy intersection in Saigon. His protest against the Roman Catholic oppression of Buddhists in South Vietnam consisted of dousing himself in gasoline and setting himself ablaze, during which he remained completely motionless. Photographs of this act (especially Malcom Brown's, the one included on the cover of this album and for which he won a Pulitzer Prize) circulated around the world, raising awareness of the struggles of Buddhists in that region of the world, and ultimately led to the assassination of the head of government in South Vietnam. This powerful image immediately portrays to the potential listener what they can expect from this record.
joshthevegan: (Roland in Tull)

Betty came on the heels of two fantastic albums and an appearance on a high-profile movie soundtrack (The Crow), successfully putting Helmet into the major leagues. It is their most experimental album, as it blends their crunchy, start-stop post-hardcore sound with elements of jazz, blues, and funk. These seemingly conflicting influences make Betty one of their most exciting listens, and sets it amongst the best post-hardcore records of its time.

The cover art seems immediately to be at odds with the grindy power-rock contained within the album, effectively expressing the unexpected nature of the record.
joshthevegan: (woody)

Fugazi's fourth full-length marked the beginning of their journey into more avant garde music. They began experimenting with styles that they hadn't tried before, and in order to ensure the ambient sounds and textures would shine through, they took on the production responsibilities themselves. The result is an exciting, unique record that re-defined what it meant to be a "punk" band in the mid 1990's. The enigmatic cover art fits perfectly with this offbeat achievement.
joshthevegan: (Hank)

Chris Haskett's career started in the shadow of another one of the guitarists on this list, Greg Ginn, as the guitarist for the instrumental group Gone. It was when his life-long friend Henry Rollins suggested they start a band together, however, that Haskett's abilities as a lead guitarist were revealed to the world.

During his years with the Rollins Band, Haskett led the band through dark, jazzy territory that slanted towards swing and funk more and more with each release. His passionate, Hendrix-esque playing positioned him as every bit as important a member of the band as the front man the band was named for. Punk music was facing a bit of an identity crisis in the later 1980's with the decline of hardcore, and Haskett's playing helped usher in the post-hardcore era, and was crucial in helping define what it meant to play punk in the wake of the first waves of the genre.

From the second Rollins Band release, Hard Volume, "Down And Away" exemplifies Haskett's atonal howl that pairs so well with the vocals.

And here is the Rollins Band at the height of what I consider their greatest era. They were still touring to promote their album The End Of Silence, bassist Andrew Weiss was still playing with them, and Haskett sounds positively innovative and youthfully aggressive.

As the brains behind the post-hardcore behemoth Helmet, Page Hamilton uses his background in classical and jazz playing to bring a surreptitiously funky and surprisingly sonorous atonality to the table. While his contemporaries were more blatant in their incorporation of 1970's funk to hard rock in the early 1990's (Rage Against the Machine, The End of Silence-era Rollins Band), Hamilton used varying accent patterns and unusual time signatures to liven up his crunchy, testosterone-fueled auditory attacks.

Here is a performance of Helmet's classic, "Ironhead" featuring the band's mid 2000's line up. A nice, tasty sample of Hamilton's ability to chew up his guitar's neck.

September 2014



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