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With the release of the massively influential “Scum” in 1987, Napalm Death established themselves as the premier grindcore band of the world. They had been generating a buzz for five years prior to its release and had even garnered some popularity and radio airplay. Despite this success, Napalm Death suffered from constantly changing lineups. “Scum” was an excellent album, but the fact that it was split across two entirely different groups of people produced somewhat of an unstable effect. “From Enslavement To Obliteration” fixed this problem by having a stable (for the time being) lineup.
FOTE is an altogether different monster, but more importantly it is a monster that manages to keep itself intact across 22 songs. While some may argue that the Napalm Death of the Bullen/Broadrick days was the best, it is insanely difficult to compare them to the growling and shrieking of Lee Dorrian, and blitzkrieg speed of guitarist Bill Steer, drummer Mick Harris, and bassist Shane Embury. While most of these talents were introduced during the second half of “Scum”, it is on FOTE where they consolidate and take on an identity of their own.
The album begins with the very slow and ominous “Evolved As One.” Distorted guitars and extremely creepy vocals give way to the utter mayhem that is “It’s A M.A.N.S. World.” That song is the starting point for where the early Napalm Death formula is pushed to the absolute limit. It’s all here, from the catchy punk-infested grind riffs to Dorrian’s demented vocals and Harris’s insane drumming. While Napalm Death had been using this same formula for a while, it is here where it is done best. Just listen to the non-stop barrages that are “Lucid Fairytale” and “Impressions”, or headbang to the more varied, but no less brutal, tunes of “Display To Me” and “Mentally Murdered.” This is essential Napalm Death, and also their last true grindcore album. Indeed, after FOTE both Dorrian and Steer would leave and be replaced with Mitch Harris and Barney Greenway, both great musicians in their own right, but lacking the sheer explosiveness that made Napalm Death into such a powerhouse.
“From Enslavement To Obliteration” is an album who may not have the historical value of the band’s previous works, but instead has something that is perhaps more important; perfection of the formula that gave the band a name in the first place.