John Joseph will always be known for his pioneering contribution to the birth of metallic hardcore as a member of Cro-Mags. If you listened to his interview on Robb Flynn’s podcast last year, you’ll know that this is a man who grew up in New York and lived most of his life on the streets as an abandoned juvenile when not in foster homes. The spiritual enlightenment of the Hare Krishna movement and the outlet of punk saved him from prison, as did veganism and iron man triathlons in later life. He lost the right to tour under the name of Cro-Mags in 2019 and now focuses on Bloodclot for his artistic endeavours. As a revolving supergroup featuring current and former members of Sick of It All, Madball and Quicksand, the band have already announced that Christian Olde Wolbers (ex-Fear factory/Vio-lence) will be joining in 2023. These are exciting times for Bloodclot.
As a former roadie for Bad Brains and an icon of straight-edge hardcore in the 1980s and 1990s, you might be under the impression that John Joseph’s vision for Bloodclot extends no further than aggressive anti-establishment punk. This assumption would be wrong. Opener, ‘Souls’, is straight out of the Slayer/Nuclear Assault repertoire, yet it also experiments with nail-biting chords in the bridge as if offering a hand of friendship to Voivod. The skank beats, rapid guitar-picking and temple-throbbing vocals leave nothing to the imagination – the only thing missing is a war cry of “destroy” over a climatic barrage of cymbal crashes. This is thrash metal with a capital T.
Of course, you can also bet your negative equity mortgage on Bloodclot delving into their hardcore punk roots when required. ‘Unhinged’ is one minute and nineteen seconds of body-stomping euphoria. John Joseph’s vocal opposition to the covid lockdowns did not escape the notice of the liberals who run the big tech companies. They were happy to police social media on behalf of the governments they hope will continue to turn a blind eye to their monopoly power. The ex-Cro-Mags frontman does not hide his scorn for these people and their ruinous hold on society. ‘War Castles’ is like vintage Power Trip with the guitar tone of Vio-lence and a thumping mid-range EQ of snare drums. “Mainstream manipulation slaughters the youth/ Twisting reality away from the truth/ Rolling over souls just for their goals/ Maniacs man the technology controls,” You get the picture, but here is a summary if it’s not obvious: Fuck you, Twitter! Go to hell, Facebook! Die, Google!
Twenty minutes for an album seems like a spontaneous attack with no plan B, yet Bloodclot show on ‘Infectious’ that they can be more than just a voice and a way of life. It’s not deliberate, but the chunky beatdown groove in the verse gives way to a magnificent grunge/nu metal chorus that could be from either Alice in Chains or Korn depending on your own preferences. Close your eyes and it could even be a forgotten fin de millennium act like American Head Charge holding those shivering voice patterns and nasal vocal inflections. Where did this come from? You’re still marvelling at it when they return to the vicious hardcore punk of ‘Relentless’ and smash through their cover of ‘How Low Can a Punk Get’ by Bad Brains.
“You gotta break free/ Outta’ the way of yourself/ Never stay in your lane/ Gotta question shit/ When shit’s insane/ Talk yourself off the ledge,” declares John Joseph. This healthy scepticism and distrust of authority combined with self-reliance and a glorious thrash metal edge is what makes Bloodclot stand out from the crowd. A couple more songs would make Souls an undisputed classic, but you can’t fault the six originals they serve up here.
Release Date: 16/12/2022
Record Label: Upstate Records / Blood Blast Distribution
Standout tracks: Souls, War Castles, Infectious
Suggested Further Listening: Psychosomatic – The Invisible Prison (2020), Bad Brains – Rock for Light (1983), Power Trip – Manifest Decimation (2013)