When people think of Henry Rollins, the first thing that tends to come to their mind is Black Flag – which is understandable. Black Flag’s significance in punk is inarguable, but it’s also an ignorance that overshadows Rollins’ far more ambitious band: Rollins Band. The level of competent musicianship found within a Rollins Band album may come as a surprise to the uninitiated but rest assured, it’s a journey filled with airtight grooves, great solos and a breadth of styles that range from rock and metal to blues and jazz. The only problem is that where the instrumental work evolves and changes overtime, Henry’s vocal work remains unaltered and stoic. I’ve questioned what makes their first two albums my go-to over the rest of their work – after all, bar Nice
for being the straw that broke the camel’s back, their career has been a very consistent one. Musing over the evidence, the conclusion I’ve come to is based on the style and approach of each album’s sound. In spite of the gargantuan jams found within Life Time
and Hard Volume
, the raw, white-hot intensity of Rollins and the grimy, dank production that covers him and his band is what carries and makes those records so dangerous and incalculable. That threat is hampered by the time we get to their breakthrough album, The End of Silence
, where the band opts for a pristine polish – a glossy production and a more conventional focus on songwriting. Don’t get me wrong, anything from the The End of Silence
era onward is thoroughly enjoyable to listen to, but the clean production is what finally reveals Rollins’ limitations as a frontman – standing out like a skinhead dining in a Dorsia restaurant.
It’s sad to say but, post-The End of Silence
Cain, Haskett and Gibbs are the ones doing the creative lifting. Weight
keeps things fresh by taking the previous album’s genetics and perfects them – trimming the fat away to make a more concise and accessible experience, one that continues to move the band forwards regardless of Henry’s limitations – but I think it’s worth noting at this point that Come In And Burn
is an album with a semblance of awareness. Henry Rollins is no fool; he understands his impediments. Which is why after this album got released the band went on an indefinite hiatus, subsequently resulting in a line-up change for their last two records before the band’s demise. Come in And Burn
is a solid album, there’s no denying that, but it does show a number of caveats that weren’t there previously – notably its underwhelming familiarity. It’s essentially Weight 1.5
without the wit of its former. Rollins makes the record feel homogenized in spite of a few highlights, sorely lacking in melody or any real intensity to try and compensate, and thus turning songs like “Starve” and “The End of Something” into insipid exercises. A prime example of this would be the strong instrumental melody on “All I Want” which aches for a competent singer, but when it comes to the reality of the matter it fails to capture the potential on offer – a theme you’ll find reoccurring throughout this record.
I can’t put all the blame on Rollins of course, because even the band sounds burnt out here. Riffs lack staying power or memorability and it all quickly becomes a cumbersome burden by the second act of the record, leaving songs like “Saying Goodbye Again” to sound creatively anaemic. But the problem primarily stems from the fact that if the band isn’t working properly, it’s going to fall twice as hard on Henry. The watery, elongated guitar notes and low-key drum work on “Inhale Exhale” is a prime example of critically fumbling and leaving Henry in a rather precarious and vulnerable position, but it’s as equally punishing for the listener as well; emitting intensely dull aftereffects. My criticisms for Come in And Burn
sound pretty severe, but the truth is, it’s still a good record. The intense, adrenaline fuelled stoner-rock powerhouse “On My Way To The Cage,” with its crunchy basslines, fits Rollins’ spoken word approach excellently; the grunge-y riffs on “Disappearing Act” stand as one of the more memorable moments here; and the ominous “Shame” serves up the catchiest number for the entire album. Honestly, it does the job well, but it’s definitely a record which reveals an indefinite plateau. Henry’s spoken word performances just don’t suit this kind of production, and with a fairly average range of instrumentals to work with anyway, it presents a pretty underwhelming album when compared to their previous efforts.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Come-Burn-Sessions-Henry-Rollins/dp/B0007KIFZK