Sunday, April 4, 2010

Napalm Death - Scum

I risk the wrath of extreme metalheads everywhere for this, but as for Napalm Death’s debut, immensely influential as it is…I just can’t find a lot of things to actually praise about it, from a purely musical standpoint. Sure, we all know of the single-digit-length song You Suffer, which garnered itself a Guinness World Record for being the shortest song in existence, but I have to say – it’s about as musically enjoyable as you’d expect (IE, not). Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that; it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just there, and barely so – those scarce few seconds in which it exists give just enough time for absolutely nothing to happen.

Now, I know, attacking grindcore for the single-digit bursts of sharp, angry noise that it’s more or less become infamous for is like attacking power metal for those silly interludes that seem to pop up around every corner, depending on where you look; it can be a cute talking point, but ultimately an empty one because it attacks a genre for something tertiary to the core music.

But that’s the problem with this release: that rather unmemorable musical ideal of faux-brutality seeps into the more reasonably-sized songs as well – very scarcely will I stand up and say, “I’m in the mood to hear some abrasive bursts of harsh noise that may or may not be guitarwork, while some guy warbles angrily over it”, and if I did, I would probably opt for something a bit more…structurally relevant than this.

Now, I don’t want to be altogether too hard on this, since it was their first release and the pioneering of a musical style, but I have to look at the album as it stands, disconnected from all influence it spawned. To be fair, occasionally they’ll get a real nice riff or groove going, and at the very least, those moments will get your foot tapping and head bobbing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a step up from the average bottom-rung bedroom black metal tripe that seems to be a (fundless) industry all its own in various places where the forests are deep and the facepaint is abundant – but it still doesn’t get many listens from me.

I know metalheads who will swear by this release, though, and when I look at the breadth of albums (mainly in the death metal genre; I’m not a grind fan in general, as you probably got already) that do everything this album does, but in a much stronger and more memorable fashion, I just have to ask… “Why?”

Bottom line: Might as well check it out for its influence. Just don’t expect to be blown away unless you’re the kind of grungy, down-and-dirty grind fan that lives and dies by this stuff.

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