Black Flag, easily the most harsh, brutal, and rebelious band of all time, was a suitable band to cover for ex-Flag frontman Henry Rollins' West Memphis 3 Benefit Album. First off, the West Memphis 3 are 3 young men who were convicted in 1994 of killing 3 young kids. Whether they are guilty or not is not certain, but what IS certain is that these young men had an unfair and unjust trial full of poor defence and questionable evidence. For more information rent the HBO documentary "Paradise Lost" or the new book "Devil's Knot". Anyway, on to the album itself- brutal, loud, distorted and totally rockin'!
The album is a pounding 24 (yes I said 24) song punk extravaganza! It comes off to a blistering start with a "public service anouncement" so to speak by Chuck D. and then cuts into Henry's new version of "Rise Above". Rollins sings angrily and his band is as dynamic as ever (if you've heard "Get Some Go Again" or "Nice" you know what I mean about how great his backing band is).
Next is Keith Morris returning to "Nervous Breakdown", and the results are astonishing. It is just as creepy and intense as the original, if not more so. He screams, snarls, yells and pretty much goes insane the way you'd expect our Circle Jerks frontman to.
Iggy Pop rips through "Fix Me" sounding very menacing the whole time, purely a great song. Next Neil Fallon from the band Clutch gives an equally intense preformance of "American Waste" and Cedric Bixler Zavala is as creepy and chilling as Keith Morris on a version of "I've Had It" which also rivals the original in some ways. Jeff Moreira of Poison The Well and Corey Taylor give intense and powerful vocals on "I've Heard It Before" & "Room 13".
Then, suddenly, the album switches to a very entertaining and head bobbing Ramones-ish version of "Wasted" with Henry Rollins and Exene Cervenka singing in key with each other, good and fun stuff. Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age sounds actually a lot like Chavo while singing "Jealous Again"- so much so that for a minute I thought I was listening to the original, but then he started to scream and it sent chills down my spine. Henry lends his vocals to the fun update of "TV Party", the song is particularly hilarious due to the fact that all of the shows yelled are new ones like "Temptation Island", "Judge Judy" and, even more humorous, "Night Visions"!
Hank III then comes in and serves up a disturbing version of "No Values" full of snarling and angry yells even more intense than the original, great stuff. Casey Chaos goes insane on "Depression", he also seems to sound a little similar to Keith Morris, but different enough to make the song sound excitingly dark- again, this new version is just as intense as the original. Ice T, who's no stranger to punk or metal, kicks out the hard jams on the fitting "Police Story". Slayer's Tom Araya was also a perfect choice for "Revenge"- it comes off thrashing and brutal.
Former Black Flag Bassist Chuck Dukowski returns to sing a Flag song for the second time (he sang "You Bet We Got Something Against You!" in 1980's Jealous Again) and he sounds great. Lemmy's version of "Thirsty & Miserable" is a good cut from all of the speedy stuff, giving the album a good groove. Even Tim Armstrong and Lars Fredricksen sing on "No More", which sounds just as intense as the newest Rancid record.
From this point on Henry sings evey song with a few popping guest vocals by the likes of Inger Lorre on "Slip It In" and former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler on "Annihilate This Week". Finally, last, but definitely not least, Henry sings the Flag classic "My War" with vigor and intense rage as you'd expect. There is a bonus final live track with Ryan Adams singing an acoustic version of "Nervous Breakdown" and it is suitably creepy. Overall......if you ever liked Black Flag, Rollins or any of these artists you NEED this album, and if you just want to celebrate a good cause you NEED to buy it as well. Excellent, far and beyond the call of duty preformances from all. I'm only wondering what happened to Jim Lindberg from Pennywise 's take on "Don't Care". Oh well, excellent album.