Napalm Death - Scum
Earache Records
Grind, Hardcore Punk
28 songs (33:18)
Release year: 1987
Napalm Death, Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat

Starting life as a Hardcore Punk band in the early eighties, Napalm Death fought the currents from the start, as debut full-length Scum proved beyond all doubt - the band was unwilling to bow even the slightest to commercial forces. Napalm Death is my favourite band of all time, simply because of its sheer dedication to the art of heaviness. Being first introduced to the band in its post-millennial resurge, it struck a nerve like no other band could and I’ve never looked back since.

Scum is a mind-blowing achievement, a rip-roaring surge through twenty-eight tracks in just over thirty minutes that chews up the musical rulebook and spits it out at least twice in every ‘song’. Listening to it for the first time is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do in life, the ungentle rhythms and speed-of-light musicianship pulverising your ears and reducing your mind to dust. It is, honestly, fucking heavy, and not in the Brutal Death sense. Where Brutal Death Metal is like standing next to a speaker on full volume, this is the aural equivalent of getting glassed in a pub by the strange-looking man in the corner, who you’ve been eyeing suspiciously all evening but have taken your eyes off for just for a moment to buy another round. It will burn your eardrums red, and will either make you dance like a maniac (keep reading) or run for miles (you can stop reading now, if you haven’t already).

What makes this album especially interesting is that this is not the heaviness of a Death Metal band pushing itself to extremes, as in 1987 Napalm Death had not yet introduced Death Metal to its sound, and so what the band was producing with Scum was Hardcore Punk, albeit sped up to the point of insanity. If you’ve ever wondered what Discharge circa Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing would sound like if the band was playing at ten times the normal speed, then look no further.

Scum was recorded in two sessions with nearly completely different line-ups, each containing the cream of the British crop. Nick Bullen, Justin Broadrick and Mick Harris played on the first half of the album (originally a demo) and would go on to form such underground legends as Scorn and Godflesh. Slow, sludgy guitar riffs and the most deformed, twisted bass sound that you’ve ever heard form a wall of noise for the majority of tracks, backed by furious drumming - Napalm Death is generally hailed as the creator of the blastbeat, and it’s put to good use here. It’s wrong to think that the album is unlistenable noise, however, as for every speed-of-light assault there’s some very catchy slower sections, such as Siege Of Power (at just under four minutes the longest song on the album).

This line-up split soon after, Bullen becoming frustrated with the increasingly Metal direction of the band and eventually leaving to go to university after Justin Broadrick was headhunted by the Industrial group Head Of David. Mick Harris recruited Carcass guitarist Bill Steer and the then unknown Lee Dorrian for vocals (later, of course, to form the godly temple of Doom that is Cathedral) bassist Jim Whitely having joined shortly before Bullen left. Although to casual ears there’s not a big difference between the two sides of the album, many think the earlier half is the better. Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal choice – there are plenty of good songs on the second half, even if overall they are shorter, stick closer to the Grind formula that the first half had such fun experimenting with and tend to blend together. With tracks like Success? and C.S (Conservative Shithead) there’s no real lowering of standards, although the first half is better in my opinion for the greater variation. From Multinational Corporations to You Suffer, each and every song is awesome. You can’t really say that for the second half, which tends to blend into one long rage-filled blast.

There are many highlights: the feedback-filled Multinational Corporations, the catchy-as-hell Instinct Of Survival, the short, sweet intensity of The Kill, the excellent title track – I could go through the entire album and explain exactly what it is about each song that makes it so good. The best of them all, without doubt, is the Guinness Book of Records Official Shortest Song Ever Recorded, at 1.316 seconds long – You Suffer. Wedged between Human Garbage and Life?, casual listens aren’t enough to even recognise it in the surrounding maelstrom. Listen to it on repeat, just like godlike DJ John Peel played it to introduce Napalm Death to the world, and you’ll see it for what it is: aggression distilled into a binary point of purity. It’s the spiritual raison d’etre of every band ever since that has turned its back on the mainstream and played music that causes more of a reaction in its listener than the radio-friendly fluff that millions across the world choose to inoculate themselves with daily.

You have to listen to this album many, many times before it makes real sense, and moments like the insane solo on the twenty-odd second long Parasites reach their full effect, but it’s worth it. Although none of the people who played on Scum are in the band now, it was the first attack from a band that would come to be the epitome of heaviness in the Metal world, that to this day still cranks out amazing albums. As any devotee of Extreme Metal’s early years will tell you, the first fifty or so Earache releases are classics of the genre, and Scum, which wears its ‘MOSH 3’ badge like a medal, is pretty much top of the pile. The first of many great albums to come from Napalm Death, this is a mandatory record for anyone with an interest in Grind’s history.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Napalm Death that we have reviewed:
Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Napalm Death - Utilitarian reviewed by Charles and quoted 95 / 100
Napalm Death - Inside the Torn Apart reviewed by Adam and quoted 71 / 100
Napalm Death - Diatribes reviewed by Goat and quoted 58 / 100
To see all 18 reviews click here
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