During SST’s tenure in the latter half of ’80s, Saint Vitus and Soundgarden defined the iconic California post-punk label as much as—if not more than—scratchy, early post-punk trios like the Minutemen and Hüsker Dü. That gap was bridged by Black Flag, whose guitarist Greg Ginn owned SST and also helped convert the label’s flagship group from a blistering hardcore terror cell to a simmering hard-rock menace. Current Venice Beach trio The Shrine has ties to Black Flag; the elder group’s former bassist Chuck Dukowski contributed unused Black Flag lyrics to “The Duke,” a highpoint of The Shrine’s new, sophomore album, Bless Off. But that’s not the only link. Bless Off not only pays homage to the shaggy SST sound of the late ’80s, it also blasts a cauterizing hole through the self-importance of heavy music circa the 21st century.
But Bless Off isn’t entirely a party record. “On The Grind” evokes vintage crossover metal and cowbell-clocking butt-rock in gloriously equal measure—with a skate reference thrown in—while “Worship” gallops like the younger cousin of Metallica’s early classic “Whiplash.” But singer-guitarist Josh Landau’s snarl in “Spit In My Life” is undiluted ’80s L.A. hardcore, a melding of the Adolescents and Wasted Youth that apologizes for none of its snot-on-sleeve influences. Not that it needs to. Without slipping into a retroactive rut, Landau, bassist Courtland Murphy, and drummer Jeff Murray come on like a long-lost, longhaired SST power trio—one with just as much metal as punk in its marrow. It all makes for a binge-and-purge spew of good-naturedly mean-spirited fun—one from which Dukowski’s old, recently resurrected group could learn a few things.