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Various Artists – Black on Black: A Tribute to Black Flag

The title Black on Black seems to imply that there is something inherently black about the bands involved in this tribute compilation. It certainly is heavy on the screaming and growling and drawn-out spoooooky guitar solos. The second of a series of tribute compilations put out by ReIgnition Recordings, on the heels of Bring You To Your Knees: A Tribute to Guns’N’Roses, Black on Black is actually a re-release of a compilation put out by the defunct label Initial Records back in 2003, re-mastered and with six new tracks.


The biggest problem I have with this compilation is that rather than getting a bunch of bands with a different sound to record different takes on a classic band, you’ve got a bunch of bands with very similar sounds rendering songs into their own styles–which mostly involve unintelligible vocals and a style I’d probably describe by using lots of adjectives like “violent,” “splintering,” “blistering,” and “jarring.” Metal is great when you’re angry and need a soundtrack to hit things or to scream along to with the windows down, but trying to pick it apart is best left to professionals and connoisseurs. As far as this CD is concerned, the problem is that songs that should hit like a right cross to the jaw end up feeling more like a jigsaw on a limb, ragged and repetitive, particularly Converge‘s (a band I usually like) version of “Annihilate This Week.”

They’ve front-loaded this record, sticking Most Precious Blood‘s fairly straightforward rendition of “Rise Above” at the beginning and hiding the droning tracks in the middle. Mostly, it’s a mass of anger that would be better suited to background music for my kickboxing workout than subtle analysis, but it does the job, as a tribute record should, of making me want to go out and listen to the originals over again. And really, that’s why a tribute to a band like Black Flag is a better idea than one to Guns’N’Roses. This record could actually turn some people on to a truly great band that they may not have heard before.


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