Somewhere in the backwoods of Louisiana, there was an orgy involving Black Sabbath, Molly Hatchet, and Rush (with their original drummer, John Rutsey). Those who doubt such a mythical meshing of badass rock 'n' roll need only come and pay tribute to Blackfire Revelation at the Milestone Club on Thursday, Sept. 28. If you've been lacking Evil in your rock, then look no further than this Louisiana trio who will beat more satanic face contortions out of you in a few hours than you imagined possible in a lifetime.
I had my own doubts that any contemporary band could be responsible for audio mayhem that makes '60s acid-rockers Blue Cheer look like an after-thought booking on the Lawrence Welk Show. Oh, revelers of the dark forces! Children of the Gibson fuzz and the Marshall Amp! Your new lords have arrived.
Formed as a duo in 2003 by guitarist/vocalist John Fields and drummer R.K. "Hank" Haney, Blackfire Revelation quite curiously got its start in the heartland of jazz -- New Orleans. The mournful dirges of horns that sang the sadness of abandonment during Hurricane Katrina could have no better complement than the fierce "fuck-you" anger of Blackfire's post-punk, post-metal, 21st century swampfest, fist-pumping rawk. While they were completely ignored by the jazz/blues establishment of New Orleans, Fields and Haney undertook a campaign of guerilla touring along the east coast, essentially showing up at other bands' shows, talking their way onto the bill and tagging along for additional dates.
But to relegate them to the paradigm of progressive 21st century punk/metal pioneers is a bit disingenuous. While guitarist Fields is a native of the cradle of the blues, Mississippi, he grew up in Tokyo -- a city which is arguably one of the greatest music towns in the world. Not only is it a major stop for nearly every superlative jazz musician, it has been the venue for some of the greatest rock performances of the last 35 years. While budding musicians in this country often benefit from upbringings located at seminal aural crossroads (New York, Austin, Chicago, '60s San Francisco and late '80s Seattle come to mind), the international influx of influence that thrives in Tokyo gives Fields' playing an edge that demonstrates his education in a versatile musical background. One not only hears the sludge of Tommy Iommi, but the chordal-luminescence of late-'60s Hendrix solos, the arena blitzkrieg of '80s anthem Euro-Rock, and the balls-out thunder of Miles Davis' fusion explorations.
Drummer Hank Haney, a native of Virginia, plays with the fire of Keith Moon on a Ritalin binge -- he's not afraid of the crash symbol as an essential background to Fields' vocals that ride the edge of feedback through one song after another. Nor is Haney afraid to veer from the easy pocket of metronome drummers who serve as little more than a pace-setter. As much as Fields is intent on rampaging through the landscape of raging rock, Haney treats the drums as an orchestra of thunder, matching the crunch of Fields' Gibson Flying V with his own troop of percussive horsemen bearing down upon your senses. The addition of bassist Thomas Beeman only adds to the charge of the Dark Light Brigade.
And what else could one expect from a band whose bio on its Web site features nothing more than a black and white photo of some eerie forest with the caption: "We come from the woods and that's exactly where we're headed when we're done with you." Oh yes. Evil indeed.
But behind all the muscular metal brawn Blackfire Revelation brings with them, they trump most of their peers when it comes to their lyrical prowess, as displayed on their release Gold and Guns on 51 (Fat Possum Records, 2006). While Blackfire doesn't necessarily ascend to the obscure versification of Rush or King Crimson, the foreign education of Fields' certainly impacts his wry sense of humor on such tracks as "Preach to the Choir" in which he observes, "I lost all my money/But I still got my guns." A simple turn of phrase, but it seems especially poignant from an American raised abroad and returning to a materialistic, violence-obsessed culture.
Rock, and metal in particular, has suffered from some mediocre players for quite a while, and on Gold and Guns' opening track, "Battle Hymn," Blackfire Revelation offers a salvo to potential legions of listeners: "And I want you to know/that you can change your mind/and that those that don't stick with you/just leave 'em behind." Though it may seem hyperbole, Blackfire Revelation extends the same invitation that Nirvana did in 1989: forget these poofy metal posers on the radio. Come out to the Milestone and take a visit to the wilderness.