By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
Artist: Black Flag
Album: What the…
Release Date: 12/3/12
For many, Black Flag are what it means to be hardcore. The abrasive and rebellious act pioneered the early 80’s hardcore punk and straight edge scenes. They took punk up about ten notches, incorporating elements of Black Sabbath’s trademark heavy riffing and The Stooges’ primal energy into an aggressive juggernaught.
Later material featured the dark and satirical poetry of frontman Henry Rollins. Their sound started to evolve as well, slowing the tempos and leading into proto-grunge and sludge. Black Flag disbanded by 1986, leaving much of the late 80’s/early 90’s alternative movement to owe a huge debt to the band’s legacy.
In the years since, the members have gone very separate ways. Rollins formed the successful Rollins Band project and went on to write several books and become an international spoken word artist. Guitarist Dez Cadena joined the Misfits in 2002 and has been writing and touring with them since. Earlier this year however, founding guitarist and songwriter Greg Ginn decided to resurrect Black Flag, much to the dismay of his former band mates.
Despite a lawsuit pending over the use of the name “Black Flag,” Ginn decided to hire a new crop of musicians for the project. Joining the picture are Gregory Moore on drums, singer Ron Reyes (who has since been replaced by pro skateboarder Mike Vallely) and bassist Chuck Dukowski for the new album, What the…
The album features much of the bark found on the bulk of the old material, but lacks the bite. Lackluster performances on tracks such as “Shut Up,” “My Heart’s Pumping” and “Get Out of My Way” show a lack of inspiration, or perhaps lack of the original chemistry of Black Flag. Other lukewarm tracks like “Wallow in Despair” attempt to grasp the lyrical angst of their class Damaged LP, but fail to really get off the ground.
The few highlights of the album would include “The Chase” and “No Teeth” proving interesting musically. The grinding hardcore riffs sound closer to vintage Black Flag than anything else on What the…
Overall, What the…‘s title best describes it. The album as whole sparked the questions “why now?” and “why this?” The songs Ginn comprised aren’t exactly terrible, and perhaps under the moniker of a new and separate project, they may have more of an impact. What the… feels like the sad cries of a tarnished legacy.