Virulence - If This Isnt A Dream
Before Scott Hill, Ken Pucci, Mark Abshire and Ruben Romano, or most of them, formed Fu Manchu, they were in a band called Virulence. They were right there in So Cal alongside Black Flag, Circle Jerks, DK, etc, in the mid 80s when the underground truly was that, not merely an “Alt” niche for mallrats. This retrospective includes the ban’s classic “If This Isn’t A Dream” record, plus some outtake and live tracks. They werent the most notable band back then, and even aging punks might not remember them, but this is a nice snotty blast from the past to listen to with jaundiced ears and a beer tear for what road music could have taken.
It is clear from only the first couple of tracks that this is mid 80s, as Virulence feature most of the hallmarks of late hardcore: thecreeping metal lines into the rhythm, the growing ponderousness of the solos (this was around the time that Black Flag was deciding whether or not it wanted to be Black Sabbath or Saccharine Trust) and the choppy arhythmic vocals. Songs like “Wrapped Up” and “Blank Stare” basically are Flag songs. They find their own stain on tracks like “Kindergarten” and “The Curse,” where some genuine experimentation with hardcore themes work great. The live stuff is the real meat here. “Empty Head,” “Stall and “My Rules “ capture true punk glory, and the band show off chops rare for most lesser bands of the era. Even “Blank Stare” is given new life. The unreleased stuff, like “All” and “Look At it Closely,” are hardcore of the early 80s variety, with a little Suicidal vibe connecting.
It’s a period piece to be sure, but “If This Isn’t A Dream…1985-1989” is from a pretty crucial period, so it is worth the listen. Virulence werent the best band in Cali back then, but they were pretty cranked when they chipped in their two cents to history.
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