Brian Peterson - Burning Fight [book] (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Brian Peterson

Burning Fight 📕 (2009)


To some, the most popular '90s hardcore acts were defined by an empowering epoch for both communal and personal creativity; to others, it was a pillaging wave of shitty metal and platitudes. For better or for worse, I think we can all agree that its influence on punk music deserves its own printed text, for history's sake. Brian Peterson, author of Burning Fight, does just this by presenting an adequate attempt at articulating a scene striving for introspection and purpose. Despite some very unfortunate editing and organization, it's an informative foray into the mind-numbing world of sub-genres.

The first half of the book concentrates on the "issues." For those familiar with the time period, this section can be mildly repetitive. If you're a novice, however, you're definitely in for a treat: Peterson welcomes you into the controversial and drama-filled years of straight-edge, Hare Krishna, veganism and radical politics. Truthfully, most of these topics could have been compressed, combined, and in general, trimmed of some proverbial fat, but the topics are indeed essential. At the beginning of every chapter, there's generally a few paragraphs on the subject, and then it goes headfirst into the oral history. This should go smoothly, however the quotes are redundant at times; rather than implying a story through compilation, each musician gives their two cents with little fluency between them. A lot of them just say the same exact things.

Once we've understood the issues, Burning Fight quickly diverts to artist profiles. Besides some exceptions (i.e. Avail, Los Crudos, Swing Kids), the book is definitely a bit Rev/Victory heavy. Every band profiled contains an oral history and subsequent page outlining the band's discography–a nice addition for the completists that most hardcore kids are. Unsurprisingly, one of the more unique stories are from Vegan Reich's Sean Muttaqi, as he tries to summarize the story and vision of Hardline. The excerpts here have more direction than the book's former half, so it's a much more enjoyable read.

I'd say Peterson's only blunder is within the editing. Sadly, it's a big one. Quotes are often repeated, and sometimes a whole paragraph is duplicated one after another (see: Trial). Additionally, it would help if there was a glossary of names to refer to when the reader gets lost. Keeping a good list of names made reading Gimme Something Better that much easier.

Considering that the well is pretty dry for books on this time of hardcore, I feel a bit spoiled and ungrateful for complaining. I also feel bad because Peterson probably went into this knowing that his choice of bands were bound to be criticized. For all of this, his integrity is admirable. The thing is, for the author's concentration, the information is there. And just like a lot of great hardcore records, sometimes you have to sift through the shitty production for the magic. Burning Fight is far from perfect, but an objective and compassionate mind is exactly what's going to give the '90s hardcore scene some justice.