[9 August 2010]
The music industry, like many others, loves classification and organization. From radio stations to record stores to the shelves of collectors, the music of most artists is separated into one of many genres or sub-genres, such as pop, rock, metal, alternative, hip-hop, electronic, country, and so forth. Exactly where individual albums or artists belong within that classification system has long been a topic of debate for music fans, and pretty much everyone will tell you something different based upon his or her personal opinion and history with the music. Where does The Blood of Heroes belong? Well, sometimes the answer is not so simple…
The Blood of Heroes is the end result of a year-long collaboration of artists from many different genres, including vocalist Dr. Israel, guitarist Justin Broderick (Godflesh/Jesu), bassist Bill Laswell (Material/Praxis/Painkiller), electronic artists Enduser and Submerged, and many others. Its name and inspiration come from the film of the same name, starring Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen, and Vincent D’Onofrio. Originally released in Australia in 1989 under the title Salute to the Jugger, the film has a main plot which deals with the survivors of a post-apocalyptic world eking out whatever existence they can in so-called “dog towns”, where the only sport is a violent rugby-like game where armed teams from rival towns compete for tribute from their town if they win. In addition to the life-and-death nature of these matches, if a team has continued success it may have the opportunity to compete in “The League” (sponsored by the few remaining cities which are home to any affluence and comfort), which is the sole opportunity for residents outside the cities to escape their hardscrabble existence.
Not surprisingly, the album sounds very much like a movie score, no doubt owing some of that sound to the involvement of film sound designer/editor M. Gregor Filip. From the beginning to the end of the album, the songs on The Blood of Heroes convey the same sort of bleakness and despair that the film does, with an interesting yet coherent mix of musical styles. The sparse and scattered vocals take a backseat to dub rhythms, ambient electronic sounds, and heavy dirge-like guitar work, and serve mainly to further enhance the dark mood or provide a bit of story-telling as needed.
So, where does The Blood of Heroes fit in to the music filing system? Electronica seems like a fitting catch-all category, but the album should appeal to fans of dub, trance, industrial metal and ambient noise rock, as well as anyone who has a dusty VHS copy of the movie sitting on his or her shelf. While there are a few songs that could stand out as singles on their own (such as “Salute to the Jugger”, “Wounds Against Wounds”, “Bound”, and “Blinded”), The Blood of Heroes really is an album to listen to in its entirety, as the overall mood and concept would be lost otherwise. Through 11 tracks and nearly one hour of playing time, the album is very consistent, which says a lot about the talents of the musicians and producers who came together. A collaborative project like this could very easily have turned into a battle between egos or styles, resulting in a disjointed and uneven album. The Blood of Heroes takes just the right parts from each of its contributors to create the ideal finished product.