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.
I have several friends who have leagues of proto-metal knowledge that far surpass mine, and I sometimes pick their brains for records that we should be investigating in this column. Today’s exploration of Bloodrock‘s self-titled record from 1970 stems from one of those conversations, this Fort Worth, Texas-based band laying down an album so fantastic that longhairs are still shooting messages to each other about it a solid 50 years later.
And, man, that cover art has got me right off the bat, big and bold and looking surprisingly modern (as a side note, if you do know of this band, it’s probably for the outrageous cover art for their 1971 album Bloodrock U.S.A.), and the tunes, well, they convinced me as well. But how heavy are they? Read on to find out if this record can bang heads with other proto-metal albums we’ve discussed in Primitive Origins.
“Gotta Find a Way” kicks things off hitting hard on the ones and threes and the twos and fours because why not just hit hard all the time, says Bloodrock, and we, of course, agree. At over six and a half minutes, it’s a bit ambitious for an opener, but the thing is, it never seems to drag on, and there’s no three-minute jam part or anything, the band basically just drives that chorus into the damn ground, but we let them, because it’s good stuff. Really, I can’t stress it enough: what a great vocal line in the chorus, prompting more than a few shoulda-been laments over beers here at Primitive Origins HQ during the writing of this piece.
“Castle of Thoughts” picks up the tempo, and while this is firmly more hard rock, with some boogie to it, don’t let speed make you think it’s metal. Instead, it’s hoary and hairy hard rock with a rockin’ sidestep to it, arena-ready but also just ready for the backyard BBQ if that’s how it has to be. Another winner.
“Fatback” lays down a hella slinky groove for a few minutes of kinda sideways blues rock, like if blues rock could possibly be good, this would be it. Love the tripped-up solo, and the gruffly sung vocals work perfectly for this. What a cool tune, musically something adventurous like Thin Lizzy might do on a prime mid-era album.
“Double Cross” hits hard again with the stuttering and slinking riffs, man, just as cool as can be, vibe and sonics leaning way more hard rock than proto-metal but there’s no reason any longhair shouldn’t find tons to appreciate here, the band showing songwriting finesse for miles on this great tune. So far so good with this album, every song winning me over pretty successfully.
“Timepiece,” well, yeah, another winner, the band getting firmly comfortable in this grooving zone of relaxed mid-paced tempos, just feeling it, making us feel it, keeping things heavy enough for sure, but also accessible enough. I don’t get why this band wasn’t bigger.
“Wicked Truth” knows its way to my cold metal heart with that crashing and booming drum intro before the huge southern riff kicks in, a great way to get this one started. I don’t dig on any organ sounds too much, but you take these little pet peeves in stride when looking at music created before you were even born. Another winner of a song as we near the album’s end, and no ballads, blues or other distractors in sight. Love the wild drumming throughout this one.
“Gimme Your Head” is the shortest tune here, and what a riff to get things started, this band just doing every damn thing right on this album, here as the final trio of songs starts and Bloodrock shows no signs of wimping out at all. Love this one, pretty frantic, pretty soulful, and riffs to kill for.
First of two long ones closing things off here, “Fantastic Piece of Architecture” clocking in at 8:49 because it screws around a bit, taking us into the haunted house with the organ or something, things getting mellow but not balladeering, more like telling a spooky story that no one really asked for from this band. Still, damned if it’s not done well, histrionic, kinda engrossing, really (I could see King Diamond pulling some inspiration from this). A bit shocking to have this on here at all, but the band pulls it off. Not sure what this one is all about with that title and this sound and all, but, sure, again: it works.
“Melvin Laid an Egg,” now good lord, here comes the heavy, the band saving the biggest for last, this 7:27 beast closing off this album with the biggest and boldest and most proto-metal sounds on the whole record. Moving along like a sludge monolith, this one could easily have fit in on the first couple of Sabbath records, even the mellow part totally hitting the spot with its sudden shift to ’70s dirty-NYC-streets love before a huge tom roll and that sludge riff comes back. While I love the rock stuff on this album, this proto-metal side of Bloodrock is a monster. What a great song, killer way to end off, and, coupled with “Fantastic Piece of Architecture,” and then the southern-inflected hard rock that makes up the rest of the album, it actually all adds up to a decent amount of variety.
No ballads, no blues, no wimpy old-time-rock-and-roll: Bloodrock’s debut is a huge victory. The proto-metal levels aren’t as high as on some of the records we’ve explored, but the quality here is wildly consistent, and the album just gets heavier and weirder as it goes on, which is awesome. Two horns up; highly recommended.
Bloodrock’s Bloodrock – The Decibel breakdown:
Do I need to be stoned to listen to this?: No.
Heaviness factor: Firmly on the hard rock side of the metallic spectrum, but it stays there: very little in the way of jamming, noodling, rock ‘n’ roll elements, or blues influences that so often get in the way of these albums.
Obscura Triviuma: Not super obscure, but rockers Tesla covered “Children’s Heritage” from Bloodrock’s second album, Bloodrock 2, which also came out in 1970.
Other albums: Yes, several.
Related bands: Rutledge & Nitzinger, James Rutledge, The Lee Pickens Group, Warren Ham.
Alright, fine, if you must: All you need’s a beer.