As I said earlier in my Spazz post...for me, it all started with Bad Brains and Black Flag (with Leeway arriving shortly after). This is about the almighty Black Flag...well...words can't really describe...but let's try anyway (while also keeping things brief since you SHOULD know all that which follows this shitty intro paragraph).
In short...an ugly behemoth of abrasive, unhinged, relentlessly charging, technical chaos. This band was like sticking a mind-reader to the head of an individual on the brink of suicide, like a fridge magnet, while said individual is realizing that he/she loathes himself/herself too much to even expend the energy to follow through with it...all while the inner-head conversation is broadcast over a loud speaker.
What else can I say about a band that doesn't lose steam after 3 frontman/vocalist switches, each of whom was amazing, IMO, and added a distinctive emotional characteristic to the band's powerful, head draining, audio shitstorm. That being said, I think my absolute favorite front was Dez Cadena for the sheer ferocity of his vocal shred. He reached the pit of their "screw loose and fucking happy about it" content with his voice and unyielding delivery. Unfortunately, in 1981, he had to stop due to the heavy strain he put on his vocal cords.
"Depression" w/ Dez on vocals
"American Waste" and "Police Story" from Target Video w/ Dez on vocals (circa '81, not '83).
Exit Dez, enter Rollins. Tonally, he sounded quite similar to Dez...but not only could he yell like a motherfucker, he carried out even more of a "wildman broke out of his cage today" approach and brought that to the stage with incredible presence.
"Room 13" from Damaged w/ Henry Rollins on vocals.
The real question is, what Rollins-era Flag is my favorite...when they were a 5-piece with Dez on 2nd guitar (as heard on Damaged and seen in the following video)? Or when they returned to a 4-piece with Kira Roesseler on bass (I would say My War, which IS one of my favorite albums, but it was recorded with Greg Ginn playing bass under the alias of "Dale Nixon")?
"Thirsty And Miserable" in 5-piece mode w/ Rollins on vocals and Dez on rhythm guitar and backing vox...circa '82 (my guess).
"Depression" Again, 5-piece unit. Turn this up and watch how fucking crazy this is. Also note Chuck Biscuits on the skins (pause). 1983.
"Padded Cell"...one last time for the 5-piece beast. Rollins letting it all out 110%. IMO, his style of vocal delivery was a huge influence on many of the late 80's through 90's throat kill frontmen and frontwomen...one of the most salient examples, and one of my favorites, being Sam McPheeters (of Born Against fame).
"My War" as a 4-piece w/ a devastating Kira on bass. Circa '84/'85. Source: Deerborn, Michigan's own Back Porch Video in '85.
In the end, maybe this post was redundant in the sea of Black Flag posts out there in the blogosphere. But 1. I've been on a posting string of classic Cali hardcore punk...and 2. I wanted to pay tribute to one of the first-wave hardcore punk bands that I can put on to today and not feel like I'm listening to purely reminisce. In other words, the music has aged well with me. I still discover bits and pieces I didn't catch the first hundred times through...plus when there's such a genuine balance of solid song writing and raw emotion (with some experimentation sprinkled on top to keep things interesting)...you get a product with tremendous staying power.