There's a sample on the new Bad Brains album, "Into the Future," that perfectly captures the influential D.C. punk band's early contact with audiences: "We figured if they didn't mind us being black, we didn't mind them being white." The statement, like the band, is an incitement, an acknowledgment of the occasionally uneasy relationship among punk, metal and race in the genre's formative years.
It didn't hurt that Bad Brains were one of the most incendiary of the first-generation hard-core punk bands, and the band went on to influence a wealth of recent acts, including the Beastie Boys, TV on the Radio and the Mars Volta. Formed in 1977, Bad Brains — singer H.R., guitarist Dr. Know, bassist-producer Darryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson — offer a heavy blend of riffage and Rastafarianism on their first studio album in five years.
As on the band's classic self-titled debut and its oft-overlooked '86 metal/punk/reggae album "I Against I," the four musicians on "Into the Future" present brutal songs that often travel on meandering paths. "Youth of Today" starts hard and ends dubby, and "Come Down" is as ferocious a hard-core wind sprint as anything the band's ever done. As always, singer H.R. is as much a preacher as a singer, and the constant proselytizing about Jah gets a little old, but complaining about it is like knocking Kirk Franklin for singing about Jesus. It's best to sit back and let the power of visionary punk rock wash over you.