(As hard as it is to remember with such an incredible album as this, please familiarize yourself with the current case and information surrounding the West Memphis 3. Go to www.wm3.org for more information.)
I cannot honestly remember the last time I was this excited about an album. 'The Process of Belief' was damn close, but I'm thinking this may even go back to Rancid's 'Life Won't Wait.'
It’s hard for a lot of kids today to really get a handle on how much of an impact Black Flag had on modern punk music. Frankly, I don't know where to begin. I do know that this is probably the best album of the year. Let me tell you why....
Immediately thrown at you is the title track, "Rise Above", with ole' Hank himself giving lead vocals and a cast of punk all-stars providing backup, including Rancid's Tim Armstrong, Lars Frederiksen and Matt Freeman. The only disappointing aspect is Chuck D's contribution was limited to an dubbed voice-over. Regardless, this proves to be one of the album's standout tracks.
Original Black-Flagger Keith Morris steps up next with "Nervous Breakdown", which seems as natural as water why Morris used to front the band.
Surprisingly well efforts are also put forth by Clutch's Neil Fallon on "American Waste", Poison the Well's Jeff Moreira on "I've Heard it Before" and even Corey Taylor of “nu-whatever” Slipknot does justice to the classic "Room 13".
The group comes back again on "T.V. Party", with Henry again doing lead vocals. If you listen carefully during the infamous favorite show shout-outs, you can catch what piece of ABC trash Mr. Armstrong seems to like. I bet you wouldn't be voted off Tim.
Putting in a bid for best peformance is Hank III (you may have heard of his daddy and grandaddy) on "No Values", where he gives off an almost "Jello Biafra-ish" vibe. This one's a keeper.
Dean Ween unleashes his punk-tendencies on "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie" in an uncharacteristic vocal styling; again leaving any listener in awe.
Half-way through the disc we get two of the hardest performances offered, first with Mike Patton (is he just everywhere lately or what?) on "Six Pack" tearing the shit out of this one, then ending with what I see as one of the greatest adlibs ever "Awe fuck, I'll just have a Zima".
Then comes probably what I saw as my most anticipated track, Ice T on "Police Story". Again, I can't complain. Better than the whole "Body Count" thing he tried on so many levels. His ruthless vocal styling mixed with smoothness is almost like an audio middle finger to authority.
I love Motorhead but I am a little disappointed by Lemmy on "Thirsty and Miserable". Nothing really different from Lemmy, but again, its fucking Lemmy, what was I expecting, him to rap?
Rancid's Tim and Lars are back again in "No More", another stand-out track, primarily because of their dueling vocals, something I haven't heard in a while.
Hank comes storming back on the next 4 tracks. First, "Black Coffee", then what may be the album's best track by Hank, "Slip it In". With his much more mature voice, aggressive yet more rhythmic, he only adds to one hell of a song. Inger Lorre provides the accompanying vocals.
"Annihilate this Week", is as good as can be expected, a great song, great vocals, but at this point my focus is completely going towards the very next song.
If you have never heard "My War", I.....no, I'll be kind. "My War" is THE definitive song of punk. I will not say it is the best punk song ever, I will say that the original is the best punk song ever RECORDED. There is a difference. And I am happy to say Henry did it justice. For starters, his aggression carried in it, but no too far. After the breakdown, he does not go into the screaming fit as he did in the original, which pleased me, as it wouldn't seem right. "My War" is a timeless, timeless song, and this version is a nice accompaniment to a legend.
From everything to artist cooperation, to Greg Ginn working with Henry to get this out, to Keith Morris and Henry Rollins both singing Black Flag song's on 1 album in the new millineum for such a worthy cause, this is an immediate classic.
I can't get rid of the goosebumps. Its like Black Flag is back together, but I know that isn't so. I can always hope, well, at least hope for a WM3 support tour from Hank. Greg, Keith and Chuck, you're also invited.