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The sole reason I bought this release (second hand, really cheap) was because I was still looking for a CD quality version of the split EP with S.O.B. I already had the other releases so I waited for this album to come available for a good price. I am not going into the individual songs nor the quality since I did that on the ‘original’ releases. I’m here to judge a compilation.
What’s good about this album is that it has some releases that have been out of print for a long time now. So for those who didn’t buy those releases back then, this is a great opportunity to get their hands on this material.
Personally I would have liked it a lot better if this had been a double album including their Peel Sessions as well or even the Hatred Surge and From Enslavement demos. Yet this album only has the more hard to get stuff from the 1989-1991 era. And it’s all here. Almost no songs left out. There were a few obscure Dorrian-era recordings but some of those songs were later released on the 'Noise For Music's Sake' album.
Best release here is the Mentally Murdered EP. But Honesty, that EP has been released on 12”, on CD and also as a bonus on the first pressing of Harmony Corrpution. So in the end, the real collector has got 4 different versions of it. When hearing the songs from the split 7# with S.O.B. it becmes quite obvious these songs have been recorded around the same time and possibly even the same session. Guitar sound and vocals are very alike. Only difference being the length of the songs. But for more on that, check my review of that EP.
It’s a nice addition if you only have the full length albums from ND from that period and don’t want to spend much time searching for the EP’s. It’s hard to give a retrospective release like this a rating but for completeness I’ll give it 85 points.
Much has been written and said about the Napalm dudes. ‘Scum’, described as a collection of cacophonous conmotion, introduced the planet Earth to a new breed of animal in 1987. Things were somewhat different in the following years after line-up shifts. In fact, ‘Death by Manipulation’ stands for a pivotal point where the testimony of two eras are recorded.
This release is rather a compilation of songs featuring two different incarnations of the mighty Napalm Death. The songs found here show that in spite of any facelifts or moves into the death metal territory, the band hadn’t lost their rabid bent for the blast burst.
Tracks 1-4 are solid and even wiser than the rest of this collection. The riffs are more focused and production is almost flawless. In fact, the re-done versions of ‘Unchallenged Hate’ and ‘Social Sterility’ are far away form the original found in ‘From Enslavement to Obliteration’ (1988).
Tracks 5-7, from ‘Suffer the Children’ (1990), are interesting but unnecessary. The re-worked version of ‘Siege of Power’ (originally found in ‘Scum’) is the only worthy track because of the new arrangements and better riffs.
Tracks 8-13, from ‘Mentally Murdered’ (1989), made up the legacy of the Dorrian-Steer affinity. These are a raw, anti-music mindset. The blast is ever present and the lead work is corrosive. Dorrian spews out lyrics as if he was possessed while the band spearheaded higher levels of aural evisceration.
The rest are bonus tracks that add little to this collection of tracks spanning the period of transition in the process of Napalm Death’s evolution.
Even though there are many bands with the obsessive bent for the blast that it’s just the norm today, Napalm Death is an entity that shape-shifted without losing its stamina and ‘Death by Manipulation’ is the record to prove it.
Okay, so there's 3 EPs on this, which I'll go ahead and break down into sections:
I: "Mass Appeal Madness"
First 1 1/2 songs are kinda boring, but it gets progressively better. The production is certainly a step up from " Harmony Corruption" as the guitars are actually audible and the drums don't sound so damn cheap. Better songs as well. They remake one of the tracks from "FETO" with Mick Harris doing most of the vocals (interesting). Rating: 75
II: "Suffer The Children"
Features tracks from the "Harmony Corruption" sessions. In other words, when fast playing is going the guitars are 100000% non-existent in the mix. Vocals and drums over-power everything (the drums sound like utter crap, that snare head must've cost about $1!!!). They completely butcher "Siege Of Power" from "Scum" and the outro never seems to end. The title track has some good riffs that actually sound like old JP (somewhat anyway), I'm only giving it an 11 because of this (would've gotten a big fat ZERO otherwise!!). Rating: 11
III: "Mentally Murdered"
The last recording with Lee Dorrian and Bill Steer. Clearly, you can see the "morphing" in their style taking place. Songs are more structured yet still fast/aggressive/semi-short. Dorrian's voice clearly got help with a vocal harmonizer, but I still think it was his best vocal performance in the band. The solo on the 4th track was also probably the best solo Bill Steer ever did with any band. Easily the best production on the album as well, the only thing not very audible is the bass (all distorted bass sounds lame anyway). I'd actually have to say this is ND's finest moment!!! Rating: 90
So, I combined the 3 numbers to get my average, though I'd say the third EP alone makes this worth owning!!!
Such an awful, directionless album. At times they do a decent job of keeping the riffs in the foreground, and generally uptempo (without resorting to stupid br00tal tricks)... then they forget they ever knew how to play their instruments and they totally resort to said tricks. It is grindcore, after all.
Greatest example of this schizophrenia... Unchallenged Hate - they start off with probably the best opening riff of the entire album. Some solid death growls and the song seems like it's heading somewhere pretty good, and even when they speed it up at 0.29, it becomes a total fucking headbanger. It's similar to March of the S.O.D. in how it alternates fast and midpaced sections. More solid thrash riffs come along, and nifty growls and overall, this is a great song... so far...
Then, at 1.16, it's like they spliced in an entirely different song. Total grindcore drumming, and it's a new vocalist... a raped ferret or something from the best I can tell. What the fuck is up with that interlude?? It just turns into some mindless crap that is at best tolerable, at worst annoying.
The rest of the album doesn't quite match either extreme. They have their fair share of decently long songs... though even they suffer through flaws. They all seem to need a "br00tal" section with really tickticking drums - Mass Appeal Madness, Suffer the Children, etc etc. What would be decent death-thrash is ruined by the core shit.
The highlight... Siege of Power because it stays away from that shit and just ends up being a thrasher in the end. If the whole album were like this, it would be decent. Not spectacular, but kinda decent. It sounds a bit uninspired, and I'm not sure if that's a fault of the mix being a bit blurry or the songs being very samey... not great stuff, but I'm sure I could find a way to bang along to it. If only the whole album were like this, of course - none of this core shit, or the stupid interlude "Harmony Corruption" (I mean what the fuck, man??).
There's a real stretch of songs after that that kinda blur together because they all have a bunch of "urrgghs" and a bunch of random grindcore sections, and maybe one memorable riff (Walls of Confinement, 1.28).
Then there's a matter of the last six songs on the album, which take a total of under 8 minutes... that's Regurgitated Cow Fetus territory, and it's clearly marked, so stay the fuck off the property. It's just pretty much unadulterated crap. Especially "Understanding". SEVEN seconds? Gimme a break.
So, the album does have its redeeming moments... it's not ALL crap, but even the good stuff is missing something, and the terrible stuff is just terrible!