Record Review Essay: Rise Above by Black Flag

Published: 2022-05-09
Record Review Essay: Rise Above by Black Flag
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Music
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1422 words
12 min read

Perhaps, one of the major elements that make a great punk song is that within the lyrics or the music. In other words, there is an aspect that ignites the fire within an individual and the listener. Whether from an anthem, lyric of some kind, or from its powerful musical progression, without such aspects, punk songs miss the quality that makes them punk. Over the years, numerous punk bands have found this to be factual. However, one band that illustrated the sound both powerfully and consistently was the Black Flag. This is a Los Angeles-based punk band whose songs, even after thirty years, are still touchy and catchy. The Black Flag was perhaps the most unrivaled and truly influential bands in the history of punk. The band played music that was described with urgency and unsettling, and only a few bands could match the power and energy illustrated in the songs played by the band. Having numerous songs in their catalog, Black Flag continues to command immense respect, given their undeniable contributions to the progression of punk music. Undoubtedly, Black Flag had countless classics in their catalog. However, only a few of its singles qualified as powerful classics in their genre. One such song was Rise Above.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Rise above was the opener of perhaps one of Black Flag's best album, Damaged in the year 1981. The song was originally composed by Greg Ginn, a member of the band, and has been portrayed as the composer's and the band's attempt to crystallize the anger and rage that was at the heart of the band's music. From the song, the short, sharp bark voice of Henry Rollins comes through as a much more potent instrument, compared to the band's previous singers, giving the lyrics of Ginn the urgency they require. The chanted refrains of the verses, along with the chorus gives the song genuine hooks, presenting with yet another impressive aspect of this punk anthem. One overall, Rise Above is still a punk hardcore anthem since its recording and can be said to be a progressive song in its genre.

Being the lead track on Black Flag's Damaged album, in many ways, Rise Above comes through as the closest musical brains that the composer, Greg Ginn, came to perfecting the band, as well as the brand of measured musical chaos. In many ways, Rise Above exemplifies the ability of Black Flag to move like a single unit, since the song appears to lean back a bit, then slams forward with immense force. This force is accompanied by a drumbeat from Robo, who then introduces Ginn, who then jumps in with perhaps one of the most iconic openings in the history of music. Just seconds after the song starts, it is simply possible to imagine the reaction of the audiences and how they would immediately go off, given the song's underlying riff that is undoubtedly the most energizing in the history of punk songs. This energy and force makes Rise Above exclusively a background music for a full-blown uprising and captures the unsettling direct approach perfected by Black Flag, giving a unique feeling to the listener.

The band's lead bassist, Chuck Dukowski quid away the whole song, giving off the vibe of destruction to his musical instrument. Behind the wild playing of Ginn, Dez Cadena, a former singer for the band, comes in with his unrelenting riff, striking the listener over and over again. Rise Above remains one of the most inspirational and relentless songs in the history of punk music. The band wastes no moment throughout the entire song. The song features just a few bars, making it slightly resemble solo music, and further bringing out its differences with rock music. To that end, it is safe to say the only the splendid vocals, which are laid overtop is the only iconic and more energizing aspect of the music than the music itself.

Damaged was represented the band's first full-length recording. Additionally, the album was the band's first feature of their then-new vocalist, Henry Rollins. Having joined the band just a few months before the release of the album, it can be said that Rollins brought with him a far more confrontational and aggressive approach, compared to the previous singers the band had experienced. The album's lead song, Rise Above, served as an introduction of Rollins to the world and his vocal style. Through Rise Above, Rollins also proves that while his vocal style might differ from that of his predecessors, in the history of punk music, only a few individuals could match the emotion and energy brought by him in every song. Rollins sounded like he was almost shouting in the song. Through this style, Rollins manages to reconcile his vocals with the power and energy emitted by the music, remaining one of the most iconic and inspiring calls to action in the history of punk music.

In the song Rise Above, it is clear that Ginn gave Rollins his masterpiece in the form of the song's lyrics since there are only a few songs that serve to directly address the issue of adversity and the various ways of overcoming adversity. The song speaks to both the individual and the society at large, and the meaning of the song has been captured in the recurring phrase "...we are tired of your abuse, try to stop us is no use..." The song pushes the listener to identify with the various adversities the society is trying to put on the band as young people, and tries to encourage the individual to embrace the adversities, and try and find the power within themselves in order to overcome these adversities. At every point, the lead vocalist appeals to the listener, giving them something to rally against those who try to push them down, as well as the various ways in which the individual can take the adversities head-on, and rise above them.

Currently, Rise Above has three separate recordings, all of which feature Rollins as the leading vocalist. The first version is the one found in the album Damaged and was recorded prior to the formal sessions for the record. The band liked this original recording, compared to the one recorded with the rest of the album. After some time and in the year 2002, Rollins would then re-record the song on his own, backed by his individual band. The third version featured a different and a new take on both the vocals and the music and became an immediate classic since it features a brief introduction by Chuck D. Regardless the version, the sentiment and emotions behind Rise Above are still intact. It has been more than three decades, and the song is still powerful and stimulating, illustrating how great and extraordinary a song Black Flag created.

Rise Above still stands as among the most oft-covered songs found in the hardcore punk genre, and numerous bands across the broad musical environment have recorded individual versions of the song over and over again. However, listening to the original version, none of these groups, even come close to emanating the sound and power emanated from the original version. It can be said that through their first recording with a new vocalist, Henry Rollins, Black Flag managed to establish one of the finest and most successful album, as well as their most renowned single.

Rise Above presents the listener with truly meaningful classical lyrics, accompanied with a catchy riff at the beginning of the song that grows on the listener as they continue throughout the song. This then leads up to Henry Rollin's powerful vocals, accompanied by the background shouting of the rest of the band. Ginn then comes in with an exceptional scratchy solo, creating one of the album's greatest singles.

The arrival of Henry Rollins in Black Flag made the band's songs more live than their previous recordings. Rise Above is a clear example of this new energy. Rollins brought in a whole set of dynamics to the song, separating the song from other punk singles of its time. The stage presence of Rollins, coupled with the lyrics by Ginn brought a whole new light to the song, and it seemed to focus beyond nihilism and anger, featuring personal lyrics and humor. On the overall, listening to Rise Above, the lyrics insist on how to overcome adversity, and how individuals can stand up for themselves in the face of hardships. Rise Above features meaningful lyrics, and is generally a great punk single with a great and clear message.

Cite this page

Record Review Essay: Rise Above by Black Flag. (2022, May 09). Retrieved from

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism