Reviews Napalm Death Scum (Reissue)

Napalm Death

Scum (Reissue)

Surely by now, almost everyone within the underground music community has heard of Napalm Death. If you have not yet (what rock have you been living under?), check out Albert Mudrian's Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore for a bit of a history lesson. This book gives an excellent synopsis of the early history of Napalm Death, including the circumstances surrounding the recording of Scum.

Scum is a landmark album in the grindcore genre; many credit Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris with actually coining the phrase. It is actually the product of two separate lineups. The "A-Side" (on CD the first 12 songs) was written and performed by Nic Bullen on vocals and bass, Mick Harris on drums, and Justin Broadrick (later of Godflesh and Jesu) on guitar. This version of Napalm Death is extremely visceral and is dynamically unsophisticated. The band was feeling itself out at this point, and this inexperience adds to the raw nature and aural quality of the music. "Multinational Corporations" is a bit of a surreal track to kick off the A-Side of Scum. It does not have the blazing speed that one might expect from the band. That speed rears its head for the first time in "Instinct of Survival". "The Kill" is just over twenty seconds of a speed induced bludgeoning. The title track of the whole album has what might be some of the fastest paced rhythms that you'll ever hear. "You Suffer" is easily one of, if not the, shortest songs ever. This whole part of the record is extremely fun to listen to for me. It is brutish and also politically minded (which is a plus for me). I wish I could have seen this lineup in action.

The "B-Side" crew is filled out by Mick Harris on drums, Jim Whitely on bass, Bill Steer (of Carcass fame) on guitar, and Lee Dorrian (of Cathedral fame) on vocals. Announcing themselves with the crushing "Life?," this lineup offers several notable differences from the "A-Side" crew in terms of music. The songs are, for the most part, much shorter. There is little use of the slowed down riffing that is present on the first part of the album; it also features additional vocals by drummer Mick Harris that balances the low guttural vocals of Dorrian with the higher-pitched backups. The music is equally fast and has a similar raw quality. "Parasites," "Deceiver," and "Pseudo Youth" are all great examples of songs that slam you and are finished before you realize it. I would have to say that "Divine Death" is my favorite track off of the "B-Side." It has all of the requisite blast beats and a great vocal outro. "Moral Crusade" sounds like it is falling apart before blasting into a vicious pummeling of a song.

This 20th anniversary edition of Scum is not only fully re-mastered (and sounding much better as a result), but it also comes with a DVD that documents the recording of this grindcore classic. The re-master job actually makes this record sound really good - well, better than my cassette tape version that I have worn out. It is definitely worth picking up this 20th anniversary edition. So rather than my waxing on and on like a history professor, watch the DVD to see and hear the circumstances behind the album's creation as well as back story on the shifting lineup as well as a host of other great anecdotes.

Seriously, there is no describing Scum in an eloquent manner. This first offering from Napalm Death is brutish and crushing. Grindcore is the perfect term to describe the aggressive nature of the sounds and the raw and gloriously imperfect recording. It really is a great piece of music history. If you are into any heavy music and have not heard this yet, get off your ass.

9.0 / 10Bob
KFAI - Undead
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9.0 / 10

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