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Bad Brains

Build a Nation (Megaforce)

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If you're expecting 1982's Rock for Light, forget it. Bad Brains will never again capture that lightning in a bottle. One of the most eviscerating slabs of pyrotechnic proficiency and perspiring passion, the band's second album remains a singular achievement in hardcore punk.

Build a Nation is still a fine album. The band delivers some blistering hardcore. The signature chunk-n-churn of guitarist Dr. Know keys its attack, while the rhythm section of Earl Hudson and Darryl Jenifer hits hard enough to make Pantera sound thin.

Unfortunately, H.R.'s half-articulated vocals no longer feature the snarling threat that made classics like "Fearless Vampire Killers" and "The Big Takeover" so chilling. In fact, he croons over this roar, singing the rockers just the way he does the reggae numbers. Producer and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch makes the best of it, employing reverb and layered vocals to simulate vintage H.R.

When Build a Nation does come together -- as on "Expand Your Soul," "Let There Be Angels (Just Like You)," and "Universal Peace" -- it reminds us that few hard-rock acts can match the Bad Brains' instrumental prowess, heft, and gargantuan riffs.

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