Primitive Origins: Blast’s “Damned Flame” b/w “Hope”

Primitive Origins is a column where we’ll look back at proto-metal and early metal that deserves a bit of your battered eardrum’s attention. We’re keeping it loose and easy here: there’s no strict guidelines other than it’s gotta be old, it helps if it’s obscure, and it’s gotta rock out surprisingly hard for its context. Pscyh-ed out proto-metal from the late ’60s? Of course. Early attempts at doom metal from the ’70s? Hell yeah. Underground Soviet metal from the early ’80s? Sure. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

So, back in 1972, Belgium’s Blast entered a studio and laid down the two songs on this 7”, which were released in 1973 on Majestic Records. And, wow: this is off the charts, if not proto-metal, definitely proto-hardcore. Some of these tempos rival the fastest of ’80s hardcore or, better yet, ’80s thrash. We can’t quite call it proto-thrash, but it’s just fast, damn fast. As YouTube commenter Chris Marshall so succintly puts it, “they are playing stuff that hadn’t even been invented yet.”

This record is short; we’re talking a total run time of under 7 minutes, but it does the trick just fine and accomplishes a lot in that short period of time. Let’s take it track by track here, because there are only two…

The best of the two is the A side, and make no mistake: you need to hear this. “Damned Flame” is a crazed proto-punk song that gallops along at a speed metal pace and features some rowdy playing. When the scissor beats come in at 1:55, it’s hopeless, man; this sounds like the rhythm section of a very early German thrash band playing with the local punk guitarist because, well, who the hell else do you play with? That’s an extremely, extremely fast drum beat for 1972, and even though it’s a stretch to call this music proto-speed, I’m calling this drum performance proto-speed. Fascinating historical document here of when man learned how to play hella faster (plus, awesome metal song title).

“Hope” is on side B even though the cover seems to promise otherwise, and it’s a frantic proto-punk tune that doesn’t keep the energy of side A going, but still rules in its own way. Here, the band channels early punkers like the Stooges even though they claim to be influenced by more traditional late-’60s rock bands, the sonics of which can’t really be heard anywhere on this record. Instead of mimicking Bread, it predicts Bad Brains, and for 1972, that’s fucking awesome.

Also, let’s give some respect to the fact that this entire record was recorded, and mixed, in two hours. Yup: recorded and mixed in two hours.

Blast’s “Damned Flame” b/w “Hope” The Decibel breakdown:

Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: Definitely not.

Heaviness factor: A bit lighter than our previous Primitive Origins inductees, although the beats per minute count higher and the energy skews more off the charts.

Obscura Triviuma: The band estimates between 300 and 500 copies of this 45 were originally pressed, but it lives on through a 2015 reissue from Death Vault Records.

Other albums: Nope. Kinda ramps up the awesome factor a bit, doesn’t it?

Related bands: Plastic Bertrand (1980-1982).

Alright, fine, if you must: Nope. No drugs allowed; this is the ’70s, sure, but this has more in common with first-wave straight-edge hardcore than anything happening around the band at the time.