The music of Birmingham agitators Napalm Death typically crashes upon the listener like a drum kit hurled through a closed bay window, their lyrics vomited forth with the force of a hurricane.
As laconic as they are ear-splitting, their settings range from ‘fast’ to ‘considerably faster’. They are an extreme aspect of rock’s climate: implacable, enraged and untouched by human timidity.
Released in 1987 and championed by the likes of John Peel, their debut album Scum brought together elements of UK crust punk, US hardcore/thrashcore and the burgeoning American death metal scene, creating what’s now recognised as the first grindcore album.
The album included the track You Suffer – a song that entered the Guinness Book of Records thanks to its one-second running time – and was notable for having a completely different line-up (save for drummer Mick Harris) on each of the two sides.
Although the words are largely incomprehensible, the album displayed heartfelt political convictions. The sleeve depicts grotesque businessmen towering over an African family, underscored by a carpet of skulls peppered with the logos of McDonalds, Nestlé, BP and the like.
The band’s next album, From Enslavement To Obliteration, entered the UK indie charts at #1, and they even made the cover of the NME. The band, however, were dogged by personnel changes. Original bassist/vocalist Nick Bullen and guitarist Justin Broadrick left before Scum was completed (they play on the first 12 tracks), the latter finding acclaim with industrial experimentalists Godflesh.
Growler Lee Dorrian went on to sing intelligibly with doom rockers Cathedral. Drummer Mick Harris, the sole remnant of the original lineup, departed in 1992, rejoining Bullen in ambient dub project Scorn.