fatherratboy | Fresno, Ca United States | 11/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anger, depression, paranoia and despair. These themes were all explored before the release of "My War", the mammoth second album by Huntington Beach pioneers Black Flag. There may have even been some dramatic lip service given to the concept of emotional collapse and the experience of hitting zero degrees psychologically.
But this was something quite different. Far from a superficial examination of the ambiance of alienation felt by their audience at the time, "My War" quickly establishes the bands ability to capture the zeitgeist in this non-trivial and genuinely unsettling presentation. Lock yourself in a darkened room alone with your torment and a bottle of Jack Daniels, then turn it up way past eleven and JUST FEEL IT!
"Nothing Left Inside" by itself is a gauranteed purgation of sorrow for those contemplating the value of continued existence.But that's just the tip of the ferocious iceberg. "Beat my head against the wall", "Can't Decide", and the pummeling title track are all frightening representations of schizophrenic energy. At once both detached and passionate.
To be sure, there is musical evolution to accompany the harrowing lyrics of a very young and very tortured Henry Rollins.
Here guitarist Greg Ginn provides the perfect Yin to Rollins Yang in the form of sludgy, Sabbath like punk blues rock, which was unique to the Flag during the early to mid-eightees. During all this innovation their contemporaries were more than happy to hide behind the pandering assurance of blinding speed and virtual anger. "Damaged", the groups previous album, was notable only for its mastery of punk convention.
But on "My War", they actually transcend mere posturing to bring the listener a tangible and disturbing intimacy with neurosis unleashed. Heavy indeed. I am also happy to report that the pace of the album (which is particularly oriented to an L.P. format) survives completely intact on the C.D. There are those who may complain of murky production, but they are only sissies who fail to realize that murky production is one of the endearing charms of the album, just like the unyeilding rhythm section. Drummer Bill Stevenson (The Descendents) is backed up by Ginn who, under the guise of Dale Nixon, does double duty on bass and lead guitar.
I strongly urge any apprentice punk rocker or metal head to experiment with this record. It has been one of the most excruciatingly true and visceral experiences of my entire life, but be warned: It will be a little too intense for fans of whiney new school fare like Good Charlotte and Papa Roach. Better wear a helmet, sonny boy."
Soundtrack To Pain
Janitor X | The Mountains | 01/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are quite a few people out there that think Black Flag went sour after "Damaged". It's true that Black Flag became a cheesy metal band towards the end, but it didn't start with "My War". The descent into metal cheese started when they started releasing albums with chicks on the cover.
"My War" is a punk/metal crossover masterpiece. At the time it was released there was nothing like it. There are not many punk albums that reach the depths of darkness like this album did."My War" was not released for a long time because of a legal battle that barred Black Flag from releasing any new albums after "Damaged". The frustration and anger of being held down by a large corporation and stopped from recording comes to a head on this album.
The cover of "My War", which is one of the all time greatest covers in history, is a pretty good preview of what's on the album. Musically, the smiling man represents the first half and the knife represents the second half. The vocal theme through out the whole album is pain. This album was one of the first times Henry Rollins was free to write his own lyrics and he came out swinging. Rollins puts more emotion into singing than any other vocalist in hardcore.
The title track, "My War" is just brutal on all levels combining a pop structured tune and lacing it with screaming. The next four songs are very catchy, sarcastic songs that have some classic lines. "Swimming in the mainstream is such a lame dream. No method to the madness," sings Rollins on "Beat My Head Against The Wall".
The most impressive part starts with "Nothing Left Inside", a dark musical description of depression with a slow driving riff. "Three Nights" is probably Rollins' best vocal performance of his life that is the very definition of pain. "Scream" is an angry closing that almost leaves with a glimmer of hope- salvation through anger.
The doom metal bands of today have learned a lesson or two from "My War", but have never been able to top it. This album is the one of the darkest, raucous albums ever."
One of the Black Flag's best...
Janitor X | 12/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"O.K., I'm giving this five stars even though I know that most new listeners will dislike it. Fair warning: don't buy it expecting "(Son of) Damaged" or "(The Rest of) the First Four Years." Aside from the "T.V. Party" single (with Damaged outtakes), BF never went back to its Damaged-era sound. It was the right decision given that they totally mastered "hardcore" with Damaged, and almost certainly could never have topped that album and sound. But don't take the fact that they moved away from hardcore to be a "bad" thing (even if they eventually slipped a bit with "Family Man" and "Slip It In," before recovering and releasing "Loose Nut" and the glorious "In My Head"). My War finds Black Flag reemerging after an almost three-year lawsuit with a new line-up (Dukowski, ROBO, and Dez are long gone, replaced by Bill Stevenson and Greg Ginn's alter-ego, Dale Nixon) and a new, rawer, darker, sludgier sound. I love "My War" because it sounds like a band that's been to hell and back and that no longer trusts any one or anything (as well as a band -- well, really just Greg Ginn - who is half the band on this record anyway ...). In my book, My War and Can't Decide are two of the best punk songs ever -- yeah, they are not pretty, even by punk's admittedly low standards, but they are so raw, angry, and authentic-sounding. Anyone who has felt really at odds with the world and with those around them will relate instantly with the visceral emotion and alienation expressed in those songs. Rollins, in particular, sounds like he's completely lost it at the end of My War -- screaming his bloody head off and fingering us all as "one of them." Plus, side two -- i.e., the last three songs -- is a completely new direction for BF -- creepy, sludgy, extremely heavy (and slow) songs that are absolutely mesmerizing and trance-like (think "Master of Reality"- era Black Sabbath or "Gluey Porch Treatments"-era Melvins). Now, you will hear a lot of complaints about the album's muddy sound. Its true. I like it, though, because it dovetails with the exposed, emotive quality of the music. My advice, if you are new to Black Flag, start off with "Damaged" or "First Four Years" (their earlier, pre-Rollins stuff that is more punk, less hardcore than Damaged). If you like either of those two, then pony up for My War. A lot of you won't get it, but those of you who do will really cherish it. I do."
The Best Black Flag Album Ever
Miso | Ohio | 03/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I see a lot of people on here really putting down the second side of this album. That seems at odds with me because that is the one thing I loved about this album. I remeber listening to this album back and feeling the same as most of the people in this room, but then I remember one night being really down in the dumps and really pissed off at the world. I put this album on and listened to it while I got drunk, and the song that seemed to speak to me the most was "Three Nights". I listened to it over and over again and soon got hooked on all of the other songs on that side, no one song can come to my mind that really described what it was like to be a punk in the mid to late eighties as well as this one does. The haunting bass line and the screams of Henry going half crazy expressed more aggression than the hardest of fastest of any music ever created. I loved the song My War as well as the rest of you, but it took Three Nights for me to realize that a song doesn't have to be fast to express real anger and frustration,I suggest everyone get really drunk and give side two another try."
Mattowarrior | Madison, WI United States | 11/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Even though I've heard that the "82 My War Demos" are better recorded and performed that this (weird for a bootleg), and also feature Chuck Bisquits and Dez Cadena (only Hank and Ginn and Bill Stevenson on this one- the bassist is Ginn under a pseudonym) - This album still is essential Flag. It starts with the title track as many of their albums have, and careens its way into more Free Jazz Thrash Punk with Henry Rollins' angry vocals. Side two (or the last three songs if you have the cd) features three DOOM METAL Black Flag songs. Thats right, you heard it - Doom Metal. You see, Black Flag were huge stoners and Sabbath fans and Ginn had even signed St Vitus to his burgeoning SST Records (Vitus later returned the favor by doing a slowed down cover of "Thirsty and Miserable"). So the three songs almost foreshadow the later "Doom/Death" metal movement of the later 80's/early 90's (another precursor is Hellhammer of course). Henry's vocals are agonizing and angry, and Ginn gets some of his trademark solos in, albeit at way less BPM. Recommended, even if Slip it In is better."