The UnScene ep 1: Blood Circus

The UnScene will showcase rock from the grunge era that you might have missed back in the day.  Sure, most folks know about Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, but there was a vast deluge of bands who lurked in the ‘grunge’ underground or who kind of found themselves lumped into the grunge “scene” by hungry media.   Here, I’ll try to shine some light on those releases that have dwelled in the dark for far too long that are well worth a listen today.  Enjoy!

Artist: Blood Circus

Title: Primal Rock Therapy: Sub Pop Recordings ’88-‘89

Released: 1992

Label: Sub Pop Records

Format: CD

Genre: grunge, hard rock, alt rock

Blood Circus formed at the tail end of the 80s only to disband in 1990.  In the time they were around, they released one single, one EP and a few tracks here and there on compilations.  They’re more commonly known for being the worst selling band on Sub Pop’s catalog, and yet, the bulk of their material got a CD reissue in 1992.  Why?  Because you really don’t know rock and you especially don’t know grunge until you’ve heard this—according to the liner notes.  And to its credit, I am inclined to agree.

There were countless groups who bubbled up and made grunge what it was before anyone really gave a crap.  These included The U-Men, Green River, Bundle of Hiss, The Melvins, Cat Butt and a flurry of others.  In general, this music was a combo of punk, metal, garage and psyche, with the end result typically being loud, noisy and wild.  Case in point, here’s Blood Circus.

We open with what originally was their single, “Two Way Street.”  It definitely has the early grunge feel: rapid beats, distorted guitar and raging vocals.  The melody and progression are brilliantly simple and precise and this could have made it high on most folk’s playlist had they received the attention they deserved.  The B-side hisses in next.  With a very U-Men sounding lick (a la “Bad Little Woman” –esque), we’re raging about a dead beat dad and his death.

Track three sends into what was the start of their EP.  The beat is rapid, the vocals are a-screaming, and we’re still on the topic of dead dads.   The fourth track, “Lime Green,” roars in and we have what‘s quickly becoming the typical vocal stylings of the band, established.  It sounds like just about everyone is singing/shouting the lyrics, which gives it a more primal sound, like a roaring chant.  Hearing the shredding of the guitar makes it easy to draw links from this album to the later releases by other rockers from the area.  In that sense, it’s like we’re looking at the roots of the massive Seattle rock tree.

We get into more hard rock as the album progresses.  Things simmer into a growling, roaring inferno and it is hard to not snarl along with it.  The music is blistering, electrifying, and inescapable.  There is no statement to be made here, there is no intentional angst to draw you in; this is just straight up and in your face rock.  There is no apology and there will never be one.  This is Blood Circus; this is intense.

And things don’t simmer down.  It’s pure, unfiltered and raw.  The later tracks express this a little more than the opening two.  “Sea Chanty” is probably the mellowest track on here, which is saying something.  It resembles a bit of Seaweed’s early material, both in melody and guitar chords.  “Bloodman” rounds things out with a ditty about murder, picking the heavy and distorted sounds back up from before.

All in all this isn’t a bad compilation.  Here, you get what you were probably searching for: a hard and heavy look at part of the early Seattle sound.  The only thing missing here is the track, “The Outback,” which shows up on “Sub Pop 200” and a few other compilations.  It would have been nice to have that here though.  But you do get a few tracks that didn’t appear on the initial EP or singles (mostly at the end of this CD) which is well worth it.  I guess my only other desire would have been to have a few live tracks tacked on before the end… if that’s possible.  Anyone out there have live material that’s got decent sound quality?  Otherwise, yes, if you’re into this genre of music, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.   It’s a good look back at a band who was more influential than most would think, who once jammed alongside Tad and Nirvana, amongst others, who would later vanished into obscurity all too soon.

4.5 out of 5.



About Nick H.

I'm a geek for music whether it be on vinyl, CD, 78 or whatever. My goal is to sniff out the greated music on Earth, specializing in the obscure. I make music myself as well, mostly ambient and sound collage (1 album out and a few remixes so far). I work full time as a professional mascot (it pays the pills) but will soon retire, i hope.
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