Napalm Death – Scum
Released July 1st, 1987 on Earache Records
Back in high school, my English teacher was big into heavy Seventies rock music. He had a cassette-player stereo he would keep in class that he would play old stuff on; incidentally, this is where I first heard the glory that is Master Of Reality. In time of course we put our own generation’s heavy music on, trying to introduce him to the evolution of what he’d grown up on. We put on Master Of Puppets and he remarked that it just sounded like Black Sabbath sped up.
Lord only knows what he would have said if we’d put Scum on. If Metallica took Sabbath riffs (filtered through a thick NWOBHM asthetic, of course) and concentrated them into pure modular speed, then Napalm Death did the same thing but on a hyper level, creating black holes of metal riffs that were played with such speed and power that they, too, ate light. This is where grindcore was born, and if Anal Cunt would later turn the genre into a stupid joke, Napalm Death came barreling out of the gate in all seriousness, spitting politically-inflected fire in all directions. Thrash metal, the scene that birthed Metallica et al., was a fusion of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and hardcore punk rock. Grindcore was the same idea, only taken to it’s logical, extreme conclusion. The guitar, bass, drums, and vocals all speed by in a corrosive blur that carved out new spaces for metal, often in under one minute. Perhaps the most fully artistically realized moment, “You Suffer”, takes place in the space of two seconds (making it the world’s shortest song, at least according to the folks at the Guinness book).
Scum was not the first grindcore album, technically (the sounds that went into it had been brewing for a few years) but it was the first one to get a slightly more widespread audience than the six guys down at the basement hole that passed as an experimental metal club. It found an audience not only with metalheads unafraid of a little speed, but also among noise/ambient heads and the hardcore weird experimental wing of the jazz cats. It became quite influential in it’s own right, providing a guidestone for bands that thought even the death and black metal scenes in the 1990s was too tame.