Sessions 1981–83

In the hardcore circles of the early ’80s, the bands churning out the mile-a-minute songs were just as volatile as the music, with most coming apart at the seams before they had a chance to preserve their legacy. Highly regionalized, there were local legends in each scene barely heard outside their own tightknit clique of bands, fans and friends. It wasn’t until labels like SST, Touch and Go, and Dischord set up distribution networks that bands like these were able to truly be heard on any sort of national level.

A four-piece hailing from suburban Columbia, Maryland, Void had the good fortune of falling in with the Teen Idles and the rest of the DC scene. Though they were only around from 1980 to 1983 and never released a full-length during that run, the band’s three tracks on the Dischord Flex Your Head comp ensured their place as a hardcore pillar. Those three songs—“Dehumanized,” “Authority” and “My Rules”—didn’t even total three minutes, but their channeled ferocity stood out even amongst peers like Youth Brigade, Minor Threat and Government Issue. Dischord used Void’s 1982 recording session for a posthumous split-LP with Faith in 1985, which revealed the band to be going into a weirder, wilder and heavier direction before their split. They reportedly recorded once more in 1983 for what was supposed to be a full-length for Touch and Go, but that record has never seen the light of day.

Sessions 1981–83 collects Void’s first two recording sessions from 1981, a newly discovered four-track tape of material done with Steve Carr at Hit and Run in November and the session they did with Ian MacKaye at Inner Ear in December from which the Flex Your Head tracks were taken. Also included are two outtakes from the recordings that spawned the Faith split and a couple live cuts from ’83.

While Void in many ways epitomized the sound of the times, the specific elements that comprised their version stood out. Bubba Dupree’s guitar sounds louder, faster and fiercer than his peers on cuts like “Get Out of My Way.” It would be a stretch to call John Weiffenbach a singer, but his vocals are inflected and full of charisma and stamina that few punks possessed. Similarly, drummer Sean Finnegan plays fast and furious, but there’s small flourishes of creativity in his playing that convey he was capable than more than the standard hardcore beat. Moreover, the band was incorporating elements of metal into their output, presaging acts like Suicidal Tendencies in the coming years, as heard on “Controller/Revolt,” which even at a under a minute develops from a rant to a swirling, nearly melodic outburst of rebellion.

That the entire 34 tracks never grow tiresome or redundant—even with multiple versions of a few songs—is a testament to Void’s enduring vivacity. In fact, listening to the band again for the first time in many years, it’s shocking how much of this material eclipses that of their peers which has survived over the years. Not that it should be that surprising; this was music made by youth for youth, and sticking around for adulthood maturation wasn’t supposed to be part of the equation. Here, Void was caught in their prime, with little time to worry about career goals or be self-aware. It’s almost discomforting that this artifact survived in some odd way, but it’s no less enjoyable.
Stephen Slaybaugh