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If This Isn't a Dream... 1985-1989

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Album Review

For all but the few people who were actually aware of Virulence during their largely unheralded existence, the release of 2010's If This Isn't a Dream…1985-1989 anthology may at first seem like yet another pointless exercise on behalf of yet another unoriginal and therefore undeserving, production-line, So-Cal hardcore band…but Virulence were anything but that. In fact, the teenage group's music evolved in startling fashion during their four years of existence — all of which are chronicled here by way of long-lost demos, extremely rare live cuts, and their only, long out of print studio album. Best analyzed back to front (the disc is sequenced in reverse chronological order), rescued demos and live cuts from 1985 through 1987 do indeed showcase a merely promising garage band, still fascinated with hardcore's fast and furious fundamentals, and heavily indebted to everyone from the Circle Jerks to Suicidal Tendencies for their ideas. But by the time they recorded their 1988 album, If This Isn't a Dream, and contemporary bonus cuts included here, Virulence had transformed into a far more accomplished, eclectic, and unpredictable concern. Admittedly inspired by hardcore-metal crossover agents Bl'ast!, as well as later day Black Flag and possibly their new labelmates, the Melvins, too, Virulence's persistent speed bursts now came interspersed with loads of doom-paced sludge and surprisingly long and technical instrumental passages. The overall formula still needed some work, but with the rise of alternative rock and grunge still a few years hence, Virulence might have had just enough time to hone their talents and jump aboard the bandwagon for that wild ride into possible stardom. But instead, the group folded in 1989 with the departure of vocalist Ken Pucci, and remaining members Scott Hill (guitar) and Ruben Romano (drums) decided to shift creative gears, and, after reconnecting with former Virulence bassist, Mark Abshire, forged ahead as one of the '90s leading stoner rock bands, Fu Manchu. Their future success certainly fuels some of the motivation for fans to discover Virulence's work, but not all of it, as their music itself did indeed have something interesting to offer, as things turned out.


Genre: Rock

Years Active:

Long before making a name for themselves as founders of one of the ‘90s definitive stoner rock bands -- Fu Manchu -- guitarist Scott Hill, bassist Mark Abshire, and drummer Ruben Romano literally learned to play their instruments together in an obscure So-Cal hardcore band named Virulence. Together with singer Ken Pucci and, briefly, second guitarist Jim Alfaro, the teenagers began rehearsing in their parents' living rooms and garages in 1985, diving into the bustling hardcore scene all around them,...
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If This Isn't a Dream... 1985-1989, Virulence
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