"Black Power Flower"

By The Great Sun Jester

Released by Napalm Records, "Black Power Flower" finds Brant Bjork returning to the spotlight with a muscular rock album. It ranks as one of my favorite guitar albums in the last year. Instantly. The production pushes their raw, fuzzed-out bite in the listener's face and, with a collection of songs geared to groove on thick riffing, it gives the music fantastic urgency. Bjork's fist pumping rock vocals are ideal for these songs.

One of his best vocals comes with the first song. "Controllers Destroyed" lumbers with a distinctly Sabbath groove, particularly the bass doubling the guitar riff, but soon morphs into a different animal altogether. The minimalist backbeat and simple guitar riff aren't outright punk rock, but the stripped back approach is definitely a nod towards the genre's simplicity-first ideal. It is interesting how the song builds tension by briefly slowing twice before accelerating the tempo. A great opener. Themes of social rebellion and challenging masters continue on "We Don't Serve Their Kind", a much more straight-ahead rocker than its predecessor. Bjork gives the song an impassioned, tonsil-shredding vocal.

A slow, wah-wah inflamed groove drives "Buddha Time (Everything Fine)". Melodic and biting lead guitar lines never upstage any of the other parts and, instead, play as a counterpoint to the primary riff. There's a palpable rock and roll spirit in this approach. Bjork's songs aren't geared to some sort of virtuoso trip; this is a band performance, rather than a group of ringers playing together without chemistry. The rumbling bass and thrashing chords kicking off "Boogie Woogie On Your Brain" have a sharply ominous quality. However, despite the interesting arrangement and atmosphere, the song never resolves itself in a satisfactory way. The brief crescendos are not enough.

 "Ain't No Runnin'" succeeds where the preceding tune fails and ranks as an album highlight. It is difficult not to notice the tight, well-rounded construction or appreciate how the eye-popping riff and memorable groove climaxes with a strong guitar solo. Bjork's attentive vocal plays to the song's considerable strengths. "That's A Fact Jack" is another highlight. The scattered opening coalesces into another heavy groove streaked with wah-wah to provide added color. Production plays a key role once again by presenting the guitars as crackling, overdriven instruments teetering on the edge of an explosion from the first note to last. "Hustler's Blues" is the album's finest moment. This brooding, three a.m. crawl is the album's most soulful moment, but the slow simmering cannot hold. When the song breaks open, it heightens the emotional wallop rather than diluting it.

This is a late album of the year candidate and a blistering reminder of rock music's continued power. Highly recommended.