“I’ve got no eternity and I’ve got no past, I’ve got no destiny man, my future’s fading fast, I’m a Primitive Blast!” …rang the immortal call-to-arms from The Shrine’s self-diagnosing ‘Primitive Blast’ record back in 2012 and never could a truer description befall such a suckerpunch of a debut. The Shrine burst onto the global heavy rock scene with a guitar in one hand and a skateboard in the other. Seemingly a fully formed outfit with outrageously killer tunes, a riotous stage show and a fun-thirsty licence to thrill, this was the doped-up boogie van so many had been waiting for.
Delightfully resurrecting a vintage sound which combined an almost literal shrine to Black Flag with the fuzzy, chunky grooves of Fu Manchu, the soulful, impassioned heartbeat of Thin Lizzy and the spit-in-a-barrel volume abuse of Motörhead, the power trio wasted no time in wreaking havoc across the world, sharing stages with the likes of Graveyard, Red Fang, Earthless and Dinosaur Jr in the process. 2014 drags around just one question for The Shrine; could they capture the raucous half-piping energy, the relentlessly barnstorming riffage and the overtly addictive good times of ‘Primitive Blast’ once again on album number two, the snottily-titled ‘Bless Off’? My answer is such a compounding “Yes” that I’m tempted just to sack off writing this entire review and go listen to this slab of punked-up adrenaline abuse again for the 600th time.
Put simply, if you dug ‘Primitive Blast’, get ready to royally lose your sanity to ‘Bless Off’. The riffs are bigger, the songs are grander, the solos even more righteous and The Shrine’s fist-pumping fuck-you attitude is unparalleled. Once again these Californian natives unashamedly wear their Black Flag patches with pride in everything they do. The likes of the gung-ho bombast of ‘Worship’, the sneering title-track and the punk-spunking ‘Spit In My Life’ simply couldn’t exist without messers Ginn, Rollins, Morris and Dukowski’s hardcore classics ‘My War’ and ‘Damaged’ as templates. However, in the case of the show-stealing ‘The Duke’, this couldn’t be more so the case with the lyrics penned by Shrine-championing legend Dukowski himself in 1983 for a ‘Flag song that sadly slipped by the wayside. The Shrine happily lap up this tale of death and demise and add their own Converse sneaker full of groove for a strident, ballsy, rip-roaring assault on the ears which ironically remains one of the more smouldering, yet impressive, tracks ‘Bless Off’ has to offer.
Once again, and as on ‘Primitive Blast’, guitar-toting frontman Josh Landau remains the star of the show. His leads stun and scorch rather than rip, his glorious solos on the likes of the careering ‘Tripping Corpse’ and the gigantic lead single ‘Nothing Forever’ ache with a maturity any established rock band would maim for and yet on ‘The Duke’ the guy proves he can also actually sing a tune with passion and skill. It’s not that rhythm section Court Murphy (bass) and Jeff Murray (drums) don’t play their part (because by Christ are those guys both loud as shit and tighter than Dave Wyndorf’s waistband) but their contributions are more stunning in their incredible solidity compared to Landau’s loose, showboating finesse.
We should talk about the riffs. Oh, sweet mama, such riffs! To be frank, if you’re not headbanging like the Churchill dog riding Nemesis at Alton Towers after the likes of the scintillating ‘Nothing Forever’, the incendiary ‘Napalm’, the I-don’t-wanna-go-to-work languish of ‘On The Grind’ or bouncy castle closer ‘Hellride’ (which features a lead riff which sounds remarkably like the theme tune to Roobarb and Custard!) then you’re either clinically deaf or clinically stupid. Much like ‘Primitive Blast’, ‘Bless Off’ doesn’t let up at any stage and you don’t just listen to the odd track or two here – you listen to the entire fucking thing each time because no doubt, if you’re anything like me, you’re a filthy riff addict in need of a serious fix. What’s more, despite unashamedly being a garage punk record admittedly “fuelled by cheap beer and bad acid”, make no mistake: ‘Bless Off’ production-wise sounds absolutely incredible. Apparently recorded at Eliminator Studios, Venice Beach, CA on reel-to-reel tapes with the oldest gear these broke house-partying skaters could get their mitts on, ‘Bless Off’s sound clarity is truly robust, hungry, dynamic, gritty and roars like it ain’t got shit to lose in any respect.
Out on March 11th via the always reliable TeePee Records, if you want a fun-packed joy-ride straight through the heart of Hard Rock City as the soundtrack to your hesher haze, your early summer BBQ or your pre-drinks on the way out to a night of full obliteration, for everyone’s sakes go out and buy ‘Bless Off’. My good buddy and fellow Shaman scribe Adam Stone summed this album up more perfectly than I feel able to top recently with the declaration that: “The Shrine are like an early-Black Flag tribute band, but playing their own songs: Shit hot” and I simply couldn’t put it fairer myself. ‘Bless Off’ hasn’t left my car, my iPod, my kitchen, my office or my mind since I came into contact with it about a month ago and like its sizzling opener ‘Destroyers’ suggests, 2014 is surely the year The Shrine are “gunna run you into the ground”. Primitive yes, but there’s no doubt about it; this is a total blast!
Scribed by: Pete Green