Napalm Death – Scum
Sorry for the delay: I’ve been busy and unfortunately have a backlog of reviews to finish (as well as some which have been begging for rewrites. More will be forthcoming soon).
To me, it is difficult to listen to various forms of grindcore without it seeming somewhat derivative. To demonstrate this, I once told individual with somewhat narrow musical tastes that I would pick a random song from Napalm Death’s scum and a completely random song from Nasum and that they would sound very similar, if not exactly the same. While I cannot remember the exact songs I picked, I do remember that I successfully made my point vividly.
“Scum” is an interesting album, not only for it’s historical importance. In this one album, the launch-pad for the careers of a young Justin Broadrick and Lee Dorian were laid out. Also, the musical style known as grindcore would rapidly develop and expand into even more extreme permutations, as the various members of the original group would go on to form the (also genre defining) groups Godflesh, Jesu, Carcass, Scorn and Cathedral.
As is now standard with the majority of grindcore releases, Scum contains twenty-eight songs in thirty-three minutes, with none being longer than four minutes (and the shortest being less than a second long, the aptly titled “You Suffer”). There is not much differentiation between tracks, although there are a few interesting standouts. “Multinational Corporation” is a great opening track, as waves of guitar noise swarm about like a plague as the lead singer hoarsely screams: “Multinational corporations : Genocide of the starving nations!” over and over again. “Polluted Minds” contains an impressive guitar solo amidst the thundering drums and insistent rhythm guitar. The song “You Suffer” is also noteworthy in that it is one of the shortest songs ever recorded, lasting less than a second, as the words “You suffer, but why?” are shouted faster than seems humanly possible.
The second half of the album, from tracks 14-28, features a completely different lineup, with Lee Dorian (pre-Cathedral) on vocals, Bill Steer on guitar (pre-Carcass), Jim Whitley on bass, and Mick Harris returning as the drummer. The second half of the album is not vastly different from the first half, but there are a few interesting differences. First, the mix is generally a bit less distinct than the first half, with a different guitar tone being present. Dorian’s vocals, while not as upfront as Nik Bullen’s, are also quite a bit more diverse, with several songs featuring guttural growls as well as shrill screaming. Harris’ drums, on the other hand, are just as fast as they were on the first half.
As with most grindcore releases, this is best listened to in it’s entirety in one listening session. There is not much variety in the album, but then again, that is probably to be expected. Listening to the original recordings also reminds one how dated the material really is (although the remastered recordings might help address this, although I have not had the opportunity to listen to them). Nevertheless, this is an excellent introduction into the world of grindcore, and aptly illustrates the exciting development that Napalm Death (as well as the genre itself) would soon take.
PS: Live recording is from 1989.
~ by John Lithium on July 13, 2007.