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Friday, March 29, 2013

Bad Brains: Rise


1) Rise; 2) Miss Freedom; 3) Unidentified; 4) Love Is The Answer; 5) Free; 6) Hair; 7) Coming In Numbers; 8) Yes Jah; 9) Take Your Time; 10) Peace Of Mind; 11) Without You/Outro.

No, no, and no. I am nowhere near H.R.'s biggest fan — his hypnotic powers were never matched by sufficient singing or «voice acting» ability, as far as I am concerned — but I do acknowledge that there is a unique Bad Brains vibe, and that vibe consists of H.R. vs. Dr. Know much the same way as the Rolling Stones vibe consists of Jagger vs. Richards. A Bad Brains without H.R.? It would take a proper Jah miracle to make it work.

The new vocals guy, called «Israel Joseph I», if you can really believe it, is not a bad singer — in fact, he seems to have a stronger, tougher, more disciplined set of pipes than H.R. — but that is just the problem. Rise simply has too much discipline. It is a professionally constructed mix of about 15% hardcore, 15% grunge, and 70% mid-tempo thrash metal, with a couple reggae tunes thrown in for good measure — and in between all the calculations, they seem to have completely lost the emotional aspect. Of course, it had already started on Quickness, but even that album had a few songs that did not seem written merely for the sake of keeping themselves busy.

I have nothing to say about these songs. Much emphasis is placed on crunchy brutality — Dr. Know's guitar tones and Israel's snarls are more often in the «evil» department than elsewhere, but it is never convincing: the riffs are highly derivative and uninspired, and the vocals are way too theatrical. Maybe it would help to be able to evaluate the record completely outside of its context — as it is, one cannot help but inevitably compare the «thinner», but genuinely insane vocalizations of H.R. with the «fully-in-control» attitude of this guy. They simply belong in dif­ferent worlds (think a Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett replaced by Alan Parsons, or any other such analogy).

The last track is particularly surprising — ʽWithout Youʼ is a funky, but intentionally sentimental ballad, the clo­sest they had ever come to a properly «sell-out» track thus far. It neither lies in solid Bad Brains territory, nor is it in any way a good track: and who were they willing to fool with a goddamn love song? You do not shed tears to Bad Brains material — might just as well start expecting a symph-rock suite from the likes of AC/DC.

Yes, Dr. Know and his cronies (including drummer Mackie Jayson, now as a full-term member) are professionals, and this means there will always be people thinking that there is no such thing as a Good Brains (= «bad Bad Brains») album, and if you really want to, you can headbang along to some of these songs quite nicely — ʽUnidentifiedʼ is fast as hell, and ʽTake Your Timeʼ grinds and howls with all the mercilessness (if none of the charm) of an Alice In Chains track. But why would you want to, when the world has so much more, and so much better, in store for you? Trust the critics on this one — it holds no revelations or epiphanies, other than the revelation that some­one can live with a name like «Israel Joseph I». Thumbs down.

Check "Rise" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Rise" (MP3) on Amazon

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