Yes that Rollins. Henry Rollins. He of Punk Icons BLACK FLAG fame; he of spoken word fame; he of recent acting and now talk show fame. That Henry Rollins. Got a problem with that? If you do, take it up with Henry, his stare could make your head explode from 100 yards. A year after BLACK FLAG dissolved, Rollins decided to form his own band aptly named ROLLINS BAND, and the highlight of the outcome was the sensational album “The End Of Silence” from 1992.
In a time when everyone was having a wankfest over so called Grunge (I still maintain this wasn’t a real musical movement) and finding underground Metal was all but a futile endeavour, ROLLINS BAND was there to kick the shit out of anything that moved. I first gave notice to the band when they played the initial Lollapalooza tour. What a show they put on, and a pity they played so early in the day as they crushed everyone who came after them. The next day everyone I knew who had attended the show were all to a person talking about ROLLINS BAND, it was that powerful a performance.
As soon as I could, I sought out the band’s albums and was lucky enough to find “The End Of Silence” at a local music store (you have to remember this was the early days of CDs). From the opening power chords to the end of the album I knew this was an instant classic. Leaving behind any punk sensibilities, Rollins had recruited a band of musicians who didn’t need thick distortion to squeeze the listener’s ears and decimate their expectations of a Punk or mellower Rollins album. This record absolutely crushes. Period! Mixing in bluesy riffs with walloping power mashing, guitarist Chris Haskett produces a unique sound, which while wailing doesn’t keep within power norms and demands an attentive ear. Drummer Sim Cain on TEOS is as good as any drummer around that period, driving the odd signatures and both whipping moments and Sludge songs in the middle of the album; and along with bassist Andrew Weiss made an astounding rhythm section. These songs have chemistry overflowing and one can only imagine the recording must have been a blast.
But, no matter how you look at it, what truly drives this album at the core are Henry Rollins vocals. His absolute fury and anger is palpable in every stanza and even in the few lower vocal moments. Someone pissed off Rollins (probably the world), and with TEOS he gets his sweet revenge. Singling out one track where Rollins voice is more dominant is fruitless as he throttles each song with unrelenting brawn. Nor does Rollins mince his words in any obtuse way to have the audience wondering what his subject is about; he’s as clear and straightforward as they come and it’s a big ‘fuck you’! If you think someone has to growl or scream to convey strength in their voice, you’ve obviously never heard this album. At times almost scary in its spoken manner in mellow moments, on tracks like “Almost Real” Rollins then chokes with unreal vigour and sheer rawness that pummels from the speakers. What also gives TEOS a footing in the pantheon of great Metal and Rock albums is the ability to take simple structures of Rock and even Blues and infuse them with an absolute rage. Just as “Obscene” elevates from its opening drums and howling guitar, Rollins comes in with a yell of epic proportions, and it only gets more furious from there. “What Do You Do” is modern Sludge before it was even a true movement or at least on anyone’s radar. Right after this “Blues Jam” takes this wrathful Sludge to the nth degree in an 11 minute opus. If this song doesn’t make you feel pumped up then you can’t have a pulse. When Rollins sings “This world won’t break your heart, it’ll crush it” it is musically and lyrically devastating.
This is what Rock, Hard Rock, Metal and every damn thing in between is meant to be: adrenaline on steroids. “The End Of Silence” isn’t just a great album from the 90’s, it is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard and deserves to be put in a capsule for generation to come for them to hear what sheer power is sonically.
(Online December 3, 2007)