Dirty Rotten Imbeciles (DRI)

The band that started and defined the thrash genre of hardcore punk/heavy metal crossover known for brutal, short, blasting songs with extreme anti-control ideology. Highly recommended.

Dirty Rotten LP/CD
Rotten Records
Production: Stamped from whole cloth of the garage era, a decent job of capturing the band with some peak overwash but minimal.

Review: In the turbulence of the onset of the 1980s, a social paranoia and increasing media blitz put the underground on the defensive, allowing the most extreme elements to cross over at key nodal points of intellectual activity. D.R.I. was, alongside Discharge, perhaps the most important of these unions in that by finding a way to put heavy metal riffs into hardcore punk song structures, D.R.I. found a basis for all metal to follow.

Structural metal riffing, in the heavy metal context previous to this time, had focused on Judas Priest-style logical counterpoint of phrasing, but had never transcended the mostly verse-chorus song structures of heavy metal. Hardcore punk on the other hand, inspired by the raw aesthetics of early heavy metal, had taken it to the opposite extreme with simple looping song structures but mostly very undirectional riffs. As this emptiness dawned on the community, bands like Discharge and The Exploited were coming up with more metally riffs, but still sounded like punk bands. Crossover, and the advent of the "thrash" genre with D.R.I.'s "Dirty Rotten LP," changed all of that.


1. I Don't Need Society
2. Commuter Man
3. Plastique
4. Why
5. Balance of Terror
6. My Fate to Hate
7. Who Am I
8. Money Stinks
9. Human Waste
10. Yes Ma'am
11. Dennis' Problem
12. Closet Punk
13. Reaganomics
14. Running Around
15. Couch Slouch
16. To Open Closed Doors
17. Sad to Be
18. War Crimes
19. Busted
20. Draft Me
21. F.R.D.C.
22. Capitalist Suck
23. Misery Loves Company
24. No Sense
25. Blockhead
26. Violent Pacification
27. Snap
28. The Explorer
Length: 34:12

Copyright © 1984 Rotten Records

Here are to be found short, simple songs, often consisting of one or two riffs played at different tempos, or differing by only the notes required to make a thematic impression. In structure, these budget riffs are nihilistic and use relative motion to achieve a form of tonal positioning, allowing their informational design alone to distinguish riffs for placement in evolving pseudo-narratives of songs. While lyrically and at the highest level of structure most songs still follow a verse-chorus approach, it has been broken by variation at the level below the segmenting of song into verse and chorus, allowing other factors to influence a growth and expenditure of a paradoxical emotion: fully aware of the brutality and terror of life, it aspires with a joyful anger to overcome stupidity.

Vocals follow the hardcore shout approach with the method of integrating melodic singing into the stream that later speed metal bands made into common practice, and all instrumentalism, while often sloppy and untrained, is highly precise: no notes are wasted even when designed to appear haphazard and random. Some of the most versatile and articulate riffs to ever appear on a metal or hardcore album are here, as well as quite a few concise statements of philosophical value appearing in songs not longer than a half-minute. Most famous as an influence on Slayer, this band is historically important and remains musically viable as a testimony to its own clarity and direction.

Dealing With It
Death/Metal Blade/Restless
Production: A tight garage production delivers clear instruments and tortured guitars directly to the listener.

Review: To tear down the walls of perception, DRI reduced music to its structure and impetus without minimizing the importance of artistry and ideology in music, unifying multiple genres through a crossover ancestry that is part hardcore and part "old style" heavy metal, before metal got commercial - the Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Venom style of high-speed stripped-down riffing.

Micro-songs tear you apart: the broad contrasts of slicing bar chords in the screaming 19 seconds of "Counter Attack" to the monolithic melody in riffing hung on a vocal approach to melody which has more in common with classical music, or musicals, than it does to conventional practice of "punk" music in "Give My Taxes Back." Expect the lucid extreme, since each of these songs is as distinct from the others as most albums are to all other albums, articulating to a high degree a central theme in collision of melody and motion-oriented rhythm.


1. Snap
2. I'd Rather Be Sleeping
3. Marriage
4. Yes Ma'am
5. Soup Kitchen
6. Mad Man
7. Stupid, Stupid War
8. Counter Attack
9. Couch Slouch
10. God is Broke
11. Karma
12. Nursing Home Blues
13. I Don't Need Society
14. Give My Taxes Back
15. The Explorer
16. Reaganomics
17. How to Act
18. Shame
19. Argument Then War
20. Evil Minds
21. Slit My Wrist
22. Busted Again
23. Equal People
24. On My Way Home
25. Bail Out
Length: 34:12

Copyright © 1985 Death/Metal Blade/Restless

Kurt Brecht, vocalist, executes formidable passages of high-speed text enunciation in a riot shout alternating into more conventional, melodic half-shouted Ramones style vocals, and his bandmates of varying personae carry a reasonable percussion and low-end rumble section, the latter nailing the eighth notes in a fast stream where required but often content to relax a laconic accentuation of chord change. Brecht's lyrics, perceptive in the innocence of youth, address a complexity of issues with the simple clarity of one who is angry from a lack of respect by others for his love for life and his world.

Drumming here presents a picture of metal/hardcore extremity before the blast beat became normalized, essentially using a very scalable minimalist rock beat that has abandoned conventional "pocket" drumming for a more industrial, mechanistic consistency. A handful of variant accentuations give each beat unexpected texture and show the origins of the blast beat in grindcore through consistent but varying use of bass-snare-high-hat combinations. Periodic accentuations untranscribeable through normative notations vary many phrases to add another variable to the playing.

The real show here is the pairing of Brecht's melodies and diatribes with the nihilism of Spike Cassidy's micro-recombinant theatre of the guitar; the energy drives this music to be propulsive and insistent at the same time it is so firmly grounded in what they easily share as a talent for structure that it delivers without falter. Heavy, violent, and conceptually lucid in its discussion of the oppressive natures of society, government, human psychology and SOCIETY, the lyrical motive expressed in this music is a balanced appreciation for life and all that is good with it, with a horror turned rage slamming all of what makes living as a human, slavery: war, law, god, fear.

This album opened the way for more grindcore, death metal and speed metal than we know how to measure, and it is this author's opinion that any self-respecting metalhead would desire to be conversant with this album and its merits on the basis of the commonality between its structure and those of everything which has come after it. Ten "normal" albums do not have the variation or inspiration of this work, and if they're metal albums, at least two of them were probably made by people wearing DRI shirts.

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