Napalm Death - Harmony Corruption
Earache Records
Death Metal/Grindcore
11 songs (41'02")
Release year: 1990
Napalm Death, Earache Records
Reviewed by Adam
If you haven’t already noticed, there are at least a couple of us on the metalreviews staff that are huge fans of Napalm Death. For me, they are an easy band to like because of their longevity and consistently great output. Consistency wasn’t always a staple of Napalm Death, however. Rewind back to 1989-1990, and the band was going through quite the transitional period. Frontman Lee Dorrian left the group to form the now legendary doom outfit Cathedral, guitarist Bill Steer left to focus on his other band Carcass, leaving bassist Shane Embury and drummer Mick Harris as the last remaining members. Steer’s spot fell to both Jesse Pintado (formerly of Terrorizer) and Mitch Harris. Dorrian’s role became the place of Mark Greenway, a little known vocalist who had actually been Napalm Death’s roadie on previous tours. In reference to his penchant for getting drunk and running into things, he would acquire the nickname “Barney Rubble”, eventually shortened to simply “Barney”.

This formation would release the album Harmony Corruption in 1990. This is an important album in the Napalm Death discography, as it marks not only the full-length debut of those previously mentioned, but the introduction of prominent death metal elements to the band’s signature grindcore sound. To get the most out of this sound, the band brought in well-known death metal producer Scott Burns. For its time, the production wasn’t too bad, but it certainly sounds dated today. Embury suffers the most, as the overall sound is almost devoid of audible bass. Nonetheless, the song writing is top notch. The marriage of Harris and Pintado produces some wonderfully brutal riffs, such as those in If the Truth Be Known. Mick Harris is once again out of his mind on the kit, with his chaotic beatings carried over from the band’s previous iteration. Right from the opening sustained growl in Vision Conquest, it is clear that the vocals are vastly different. Barney was still honing his style at this point, though. As such his grunts don’t have quite the punch and sharpness of the supremely visceral screams he produces today. He still sounds good, mind you, but when you compare this performance to that of Smear Campaign, it just doesn’t match up. Fortunately, you can block this out fairly easily whilst being pummeled by the airtight combination of outstanding guitar and drum performances. One of the more memorable tracks is the all-star Unfit Earth, where Barney is joined by Glen Benton and John Tardy (of Deicide and Obituary respectively). This is also one of the better representations of the new direction the band was taking. It opens with a searing and measured death metal groove before eventually delving into the breakneck speed of the band’s grindcore past.

Harmony Corruption is short, at just over 41 minutes long. In addition, there is not one weak song of the eleven to be found in my opinion, which makes it more than easy to listen to straight through. I want to mention my favorite track before I get too much further, and that is The Chains That Bind Us. Simply put, it is four minutes of grinding death metal brutality that should not be missed. Harris shows his versatility with some fills that are slower, yet just as powerful, and Barney gives his best vocal performance on the album by far. One of the more interesting tracks is Suffer the Children (the closing track on the original release), which contains more than a few elements of thrash, particularly in the opening riffs. Not surprisingly, Napalm Death pull off this style well also.

A group this new to each other pulling off the excellence of Harmony Corruption is still astounding to me. Sure, the production is average at best, and Barney would go on to sound better, but this album has stood the test of time as far as I’m concerned. At the time it was merely a precursor of things to come, but in retrospect it is a landmark in the career of Napalm Death, for many reasons.
Killing Songs :
The Chains That Bind Us, If the Truth Be Known, Unfit Earth
Adam 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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