FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 77: Bad Brains – Bad Brains

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 77: Bad Brains – Bad Brains

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average fisherman’s knowledge of lures and lines. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Fishing. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the self-titled debut album Bad Brains, by the US Hardcore Punk band Bad Brains. Its been almost a year since I last wrote about my discover-Hardcore-Punk plan spurred by watching the excellent documentary American Hardcore and finding the lyrics to D.O.A’s ‘Fucked Up Ronnie’ so enjoyable that I needed to find out more (which if I recall correctly was written about 2 years after seeing the actual documentary, actually, but hey, that’s how my brain rolls). You can read that here.

Overall; I’ve had a mixed relationship with Punk. I found Punk tempting since first seeing a red mowhak as a kid and wanting one. One of the first bands I ever owned more than one album by was Green Day. I then went away from Punk ideas towards more Metal ideas (with Biohazard happily slipping under the Metal-Curtain though). Since starting this blog I’ve weakened my defenses, helped along the way by bands like Gallows, Sick Of It All , Madball and Life Of Agony, my Punk fears were slowly lessened.

Then Grunge helped me a little. Sure I didn’t actually fall in love with Minor Threat last summer but it was a stepping sto-o-oooone. Most recently I’ve picked up a bunch of stuff by all the bands I wanted to buy as a tween like Rancid, The Offspring, NoFX, The Distillers. That stuff’s sunshine fun fits in with my Fu Manchu’s California Crossing love and provides not only a new way into Hardcore but also some more context. I’ve got the Metallic NYHC context, I’ve got the Grunge context, but I’ve also got the 90’s Pop Punk context too now. My brain likes music in context. Hell, I didn’t even like Motorhead til I’d first gotten into Judas Priest.

Anyway, what do I know about Bad Brains? Well, every Thrash band seemed to love them. Every Metalcore band seems to love them. T Shirts with this album’s artwork on it seem as popular as ones with Venom’s Black Metal artwork on it. I know they did reggae too and it inspired Soulfly in some way. I know they have a song called ‘Pay To Cum’ because I remember it being prominent in the aforementioned American Hardcore documentary. Admittedly, I can’t remember the song. Maybe that’s not a good start? I don’t know. I’ll give it a chance….


Four Sticks Count-in. Then it kicks in. Its buzzy, my brain can’t focus. Is this going to be like Venom’s Black Metal where I have to ‘squint’ with my ears to hear it?

No. OK. the chorus comes in. Very melodic. This song is quite good. It is fast, punchy, energetic and exciting. Oh… nice guitar solo. Like, not ‘nice for Punk’ but actually nice. Then that chorus, yeah, that’s a good chorus, its got a shambolic charm. The ending of the song has a strangely peacful and serene sound that reminds me of the beach.

The next song kicks in, its pure power, noise and thrashing. It sounds like a mixture between Sodom and Minor Threat to my limited ears. Especially when the floor toms kick in. That reminds me of my favourite parts of Minor Threat. The buzzsaw guitar tone reminds me of Sodom’s first two albums.

Also I just noticed its the next song. The transition was subtle, felt like one song, not two.

The net song, ‘The Regulator’ starts up. Its clear that Gallows must like this one. Its got a menacing quality, it feels foreboding, like if it was used in a movie, it would be on in the scene just before it all goes wrong. It doesn’t sound anything like Clutch’s ‘The Regulator,’ though, that’s for damn sure. Ps. How good is Clutch’s ‘The Regulator’ !?

Then Slayer’s Alter Of Sacrifice starts. Oh wait no, its the famous ‘Banned In DC.’ Wow, so Slayer ripped that intro off pretty majorly eh? See this is why I love the whole discovery aspect of music. Its cool to learn. Side note, I like the clean singing parts, the vocals sound like no one else in my record collection, and wow, what an awesome guitar solo! That’s a pretty decent song right there!

Next comes some reggae, presumably an intro and the Punk will explode?

…um. Nope. Its just a full real instrumental reggae song. Oh, wow. I didn’t know they did this on their first album. I thought it was something that happened later in their career. Ok, its not my cup of tea but I can appreciate it must’ve been pretty damn innovative at the time.

The next song comes in, ‘Supertouch/Shitfit.’ It is exactly what I expect Hardcore Punk to sound like. If you took this, D.O.A’s ‘Fucked Up Ronnie’ and Minor Threat’s ‘Out Of Step’ then you’d have my view of what Hardcore Punk is. There’s a cool hanging bit in the middle of the two bits that has a Black Sabbath sort of a feel. Oh, it comes back, with a nice guitar solo. Then it does a Motorhead’s Overkill and refuses to end.

Up next comes ‘Leaving Babylon’ which is just an actual, real, full, 3 minute reggae song. Not what I expected when I pressed play. I thought maybe this came in the 90s when they had an artistic shift (ie. like Metallica and Load. I don’t expect a ‘Momma Said’ on Kill ‘Em All neccesarily). I don’t know anything about reggae to know if its good, but its not making me switch it off, so that’s a good sign. I’ve got to admit, I don’t much love this area of music, when The Libertines or any one of their spin off bands go a bit in that direction, its always my least favourite song of theirs, but at the same time its not that I dislike it, just that its not Rock/Metal music like I really like.

The next song ‘Fearless Vampire Kills’ is basically like any song off that Minor Threat cd. In the style I now expect, but not necessarily super fun or memorable.

Ho ho hold up. What’s this… on ‘I’ it plays a bassline I’d swear to goodness I know already. Somebody’s ripped that off too. . Oh, this is driving me crazy. Anthrax, Overkill, Metallica, Slayer or someone like that completely copy this. This is driving me up the wall, I wish I could remember who it is that ripped this off so much. Its like when I first heard Saxon’s ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ and couldn’t remember that it was the same riff as Motorhead’s ‘No Class.’ (Which are both just ZZ Top’s ‘Tush’ anyway…but I hadn’t heard that yet at the time)

Also, btw, the ending is soooooo Metallica. Like they do that sort of ending all the time. ‘Phantom Lord’ is a good example.

‘Big Take Over’ follows. Its more mid paced. It has a cool mid section where it feels like the music changes direction it does one part that feels ‘forwards’ and follows it with another art which feels ‘backward’ creating a whiplash effect. Its quite charming. The guitar solo is mixed waaaay too loud.

Next up is ‘Pay To Cum.’ I recognize it now from the documentary now. It was in my memory, just not easily accessible. Vulgar title for sure. Weird mumbly production. The drum beats during transitions are very Dave Lombardo even if the main thing is very punky. But the bit of that alternating quickly between cymbals and snare is a very Lombardo, the du-ba-do-ba-dodo thing.

‘Right Brigade’ is next. At first it doesn’t seem very special, but in the middle its got what I think Anthrax would call a Mosh Part, just before the guitar solo. It goes midpaced and menacing. That lasts all the way up to the ending.
It then ends with a 6 minute reggae song called ‘I love Jah’ which feels like a mix between the previous two, with the vocals and busier drumming of the second, and the slide guitar and echoey effects of the first one. As good a way to end the album as any I suppose. Probably really good cool-down music after the speed and Punky energy.

Well, I liked that album, and I can see a lot of how it applies to Thrash and Pop Punk. Its quite a nice gap filler in my musical knowledge. Will I like it in its own right or only as a learning experience? Time will tell. For now, I feel satisfied.

Oh well, now to go and listen to every Thrash song I own trying to figure out who ripped off ‘I.’

Life Of Agony – River Runs Red

Life Of Agony – River Runs Red

Life Of Agony – River Runs Red

River Runs Red is the cult-classic debut full-length studio album by the underrated, unique New York band Life Of Agony. It was produced by Josh Silver and released in 1993 through Roadrunner Records.

The album is a concept album which tells the story of a confused and disillusioned young man with low self-worth and a poor support network, who ultimately decides to commit suicide. Its pretty grim, dark, weighty stuff. The story really sucks you in, and you find yourself hoping its not going to end in tragedy.

Musically, this album is a pretty interesting hybrid. There’s touches of Thrash Metal, Doom Metal, NY Hardcore and a big Type-O Negative influence at the same time. At times its almost sort of like Sick Of It All doing a St Vitus cover song, with Pete Steele on vocals. Not really, but that’s a ballpark idea of what to expect.

The whole thing is chocked full of pummeling double-kicks and gang vocals, big fat dirty riffs, inventive drumming, really unique and interesting vocal performances and bucketloads of catchy hooks.

Album highlights include the speedy Title Track, the absolutely crushing opener “This Time” and the bitter introspective “Bad Seed.” If you wonder whether the album is for you or not, check out those three! That said, the whole album is rock solid, consistent from start to finish, and there’s no messing with tracks like “These Eyes” or “Method Of Groove” either. The only thing you’ll find yourself skipping are the three additional atmospheric tracks (each named after a day of the week) that provide the story but aren’t songs. Awesome for when you sit down and listen to it as a story, but missable if you just want to be bludgeoned by heavy music.

Overall; this album is an absolute monster. Relentlessly catchy, full of crushing riffs, a dynamic mix of speed and slow, powerful vocals and an interesting story. It’s a pretty unique record that no other band sounds like (and the band themselves would never repeat stylistically) and as long as you aren’t upset that it doesn’t fit neatly into one confined box, this album just gives and gives. It’s a grower, and the more spins you put in, the more magic you get back. In short – highly recommended.

Life Of Agony – Ugly Review

Life Of Agony – Ugly

Life Of Agony – Ugly

1995’s Ugly is the second full-length studio album by the New York band Life Of Agony. It was produced by Steve Thompson and released through Roadrunner Records.

It must have been damn hard to follow up their amazing, one-of-a-kind, conceptual, brutal debut album River Runs Red, and there are a segment of fans who argue they never adequately did, but for me, this album is an absolutely stormer too.

Musically, this album is a pretty interesting hybrid. Its got a touch of Ross Robinson Nu Metal flavour in the way some of the riffs work, its still got a hangover of the band’s NYHC roots but dialled back a bit, there’s touches of Doom, Stoner and Grunge in there at times but not enough to take over the whole album. It’s a pretty unique beast, and there’s plenty of variety on there to further add to the melting pot.

The lyrics on this album are absolutely brilliant. Kind of intense and emotionally weighty. There are topics of disillusionment, alienation, isolation, identity crisis, quarter-life crisis, complex relationships with family members and other such introspection. I know some people hate anything personal and deem anything like this to be “too emo” but in context and in and of itself, the lyrical quality of this album is sky high. Considering the life course of Keith (now Mina) Caputo, the lyrics just have such power and import and really “speak to you.” Topped off with really powerful, evocative and harrowing vocal performances that really project the message of the lyrics, its pretty intense stuff.

Songs like “Lost At 22,” “Damned If I Do” and “How It Would Be” all fell pretty damn profound. It also helps that the musical quality of the album is equally high. “Fears” is absolutely crushing, “Drained” has serious hooks, and “I Regret” feels like a hit single.

The album ends surprisingly with a cover of Simple Minds “(Don’t You) Forget About Me” which you will likely recognize from the movie The Breakfast Club. It’s a pretty straight cover too, no drastic reworking. It feels a bit gimmicky to me, but not enough to spoil the record.

Overall; this is a superbly well-written, interesting and affecting album with some brilliant performances and a lot to offer. If you want it to sound more like Biohazard, Madball and Sick Of It All then the change in musical direction might be a bit off-putting and likewise if you’ve always hated anything “alternative” then perhaps steer clear, but if “a good song is a good song no matter what genre” to you, and you don’t mind the idea of emotionally draining lyrics, then I highly recommend you check out this record.

Buying Round Up:

Here’s a quick list, and series of thoughts, on all the blog-related purchases I’ve made in the last while. I haven’t had time to give them all their own articles yet, so I’m going to give them all a short round-up here:

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