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This was the point where Napalm Death left the template of their legendary blast beat and punk fuelled grind and injected a smidgen of metal into the equation. It would be another year until they fully embraced metal but Mentally Murdered was the turning point for the band. They were testing the waters so to speak and for an experiment I have to admit it was a rather successful accomplishment. Rather than a full length album the band delivered this in the form of a six song EP (although I consider it a mini-LP). Gone were the 20 second speedy crust workouts and in their place were massive riffs. Check out the guitar work on opener Rise Above for further evidence of this. Yet it only takes a minute for the band to return to their old ways. As soon as vocalist Lee Dorrain lets out a guttural belch it’s back to work as normal then just when you’d expect the song to end along comes a half time break down. For Napalm Death to have this much going on in a track was at the time something of a revelation.
Cause And Effect could have been taken straight from debut album Scum, although half the speed of that albums glut of noise it’s the most standard Napalm Death fare. It’s Walls Of Confinement though that has to be my favourite track though. It has every element I love about the band. At around one minute and twenty seconds there is a huge breakdown part which is followed by (heaven forbid) a guitar solo which is beyond great. It’s such a simple thing and nowadays a grind fan would not blink an eye but back in 1989 the band were re-writing the rule book.
Before I bought the mini-LP I had read a few reviews so I sort of knew what to expect but I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. A lot of the original fans of the band left them at this point and it’s easy to see why. There was very little clue what would come next after the band released their sophomore record From Enslavement To Obliteration for the band to embrace heavy metal as much as they did here must have come as quite the shock. A year later Harmony Corruption was released and the band had embraced metal fully. The grindcore tag still follows the band today but there is no mistaking that Mentally Murdered was the point where the band grew tired of being tied to the sound.
Well, this was a big leap forward compared to the earlier F.E.T.O. album. The individual musicians have grown a lot. I can’t say too much about Shane Embury because he is buried in the sound.
The growth becomes most obvious of the re-recorded version of the song ‘Mentally Murdered’. Except being a lot tighter the guitarsound was a lot heavier, even comparable to the sound Bill Steer has on the Carcass album ‘Symphonies Of Sickness’ albeit a bit dry. Speaking of Carcass, there’s a great solo on ‘Walls Of Confinement’ that has that Symphonies-atmosphere.
Lee Dorrian grunts deeper than ever. It takes a lot of effort to understand what’s coming out of his mouth. ‘Walls Of Confinement’ is the most comprehensible. Mick Harris plays an important part to the band sounding a lot tighter. He’s become quite a good metal drummer here and also his D-beat sounds brutal and tight.
Now the compositions on itself aren’t even that different than the F.E.T.O. album. The sound may confuse some but if you notice how the ‘new’ songs are written compared to the re-recorded track ‘Mentally Murdered’, it’s actually pretty much the same style, only played better. So the biggest differences can be found in performance and production.
It’s hard to point out ‘best’ songs here as they all are great. ”Rise Above”, ”Mentally Murdered” and ”Walls Of Confinement” are remarkably catchy and “The Missing Link” had a great Extreme Noise Terror-ish crustcore beat to it. If I had to complain it would be that 'No Mental Effort' is slightly over-strechted.
The 'Mentally Murdered' EP is a classic example of a band becoming proffessional at making noise and playing great songs as well.
Napalm Death, a name that needs no introduction to fans of extreme music. A compiler and crystallizer of influences and genres who in turn, gave birth to dozens of bands and genres hitherfore unheard of by anybody. This release is a swan song of sorts in the fact that it is the last release by what is a classic line-up. After this EP, each band member would go off in stunningly different musical tangents. Lee Dorian in the form of Cathedral, Mick Harris in the form of Scorn, Shane Embury, in the form of Meathook Seed, and Bill Steer in the form of the equally classic Carcass.
The opener 'Rise Above' has a nice mid-tempo ND riff in the beginning that is kind of their trademark. The blastbeats in this album are the fastest ever played by Mick Harris and Dorian's vocal style had progressed immensely since their debut 'Scum'-there is something in his vocals that sound distinctly non-human. Second up is 'The Missing Link', also popularized by 'The Grindcrusher Collection' released that same year. It has a brutal opening riff and face-melting solo after some nice riffy build-up. Another highlight is 'Walls of Confinement' which was also featured on the 'Live Corruption' albeit sans the haunting, melodic leadwork courtesy of Bill Steer.
Musically,everything about this release kicks ass- it is a bold transition between the old, d-beat driven style of earlier releases and the death metal that would be 'Harmony Corruption', but managing to avoid any straight-up death metal as is. There is less emphasis on blasting, and more emphasis on riffing, which make the songs far more memorable and really establish a 'trademark' style of Napalm Death riffing. The overall production is good but with one complaint-the drums son't seem as loud as they should be, but this presumably has something with the sheer velocity at which Mick Harris plays.
It is interesting to speculate what this band would have become or what direction they would have went in musically if this particular line-up would have stayed together. Bands like Godflesh (ironically formed by former member Justin Broaderick) and Sore Throat (with their 'Disgrace to the Corpse of Sid' ) were already starting to re-define the essence of what extreme music was and could be, pulling it in opposite directions until it snapped. Seminal releases by both bands were extant at the time of the release of 'Mentally Murdered' and ND could not not be aware of them. Or maybe they would have stuck to the classic grindcore purveyed by bands today like Phobia and Insect Warfare. Whatever the case may be, get this release if possible. I highly recommend it-it has the ferocity of 'Scum' and riffs and arrangements comparable to 'Harmony Corruption'-in short the best of both worlds with superior production to 'Scum' but not quite the metal feel of 'Harmony Corruption'. In short, something that will make both punks and metalheads nod in appreciation. Which pretty much sums up the legacy of this classic, classic line-up.
We didn’t know it, but as they were producing their best work to date, this incarnation of Napalm Death was rupturing from within. Musical and business differences would splinter the band, which would see itself radically restructured in the two years that would succeed this EP release. But for the moments, Mentally Murdered was a new and different Napalm Death, one with it’s ear bent to the encroaching death metal scene, and an eye towards beefing up the band’s previously lo-fi recording standards. Thus this record reveals the band in an interesting middle ground, wielding the grindcore values of yore as pushed up against the very evident musical influence of Morbid Angel, a touring partner who would join the Earache roster right around the time this record was being issued.
It’s an excellent release, completely benefiting from the sonic alchemy being toyed with. Thus songs like “Rise Above” and the seminal “Walls Of Confinement” boast a maturity and even greater sense of bassy extremity that Napalm’s earlier work. The songs, supported by monstrous and memorable riffs, are given nefarious life by Colin Richardson (who would go on the be one of extreme metal’s finest producers) and his diabolical engineering skills. The general maturity on hand should not be surprising when one considers what the players involved would bring us in the future.
After an ill-fated tour, Bill Steer would depart to concentrate completely on his gory “other” band Carcass, while Lee Dorrian would form/join doom/stoner rock legends Cathedral. Mick Harris would reveal other formidable sides to his musical mind with industrial/ambient projects like Scorn and Lull. Shane Embury would also be a part of many projects; the industrial tinged Malformed Earthborn being perhaps the most pleasing. I know this EP is now incorporated into a host of Napalm Death retrospectives and rarities releases, but I had to give it full points here as a stand-alone release.
Here is one of the pivotal releases from British grind pioneers Napalm Death, when they began travelling a more death metal-influenced path, a more musically-able sound resulting. And did I mention it slays hard and mercilessly? Even though Mickey Harris is far from as tight as this music requires a drummer to be, I cut it slack, even though it results in the music not sounding as good as it could.
From the pounding intro of "Rise Above" to the last frenzied blast beats of "No Mental Effort", this EP immediately grabs your head and slams it clean through the tabletop, wall, or whatever other hard surface is available with its powerful and arresting riffs and drumming. The production is cleaner and more defined, Colin Richardson starting to hit his stride in his career, but still a wall of fuzz and crashing drums is the end result. And *this* is how I prefer Lee Dorrian to sound, inhuman grunts and roars of fury as opposed to his more fey and affected vocal style in Cathedral.
The lyrics are brilliant, intelligently-written condemnations of modern society even though you definitely need the lyric sheet to even try to understand what the hell Lee is saying here. Mickey is still screaming mindlessly in the background with his usual "caveman with his balls in a vise" style, and it only adds to the chaotic madness on display here. Brillo pad fuzz bass sound and chainsaw guitars are the final piece in this wonderfully wild, mad portrait of ND at a crossroads in their career.
This was also the last recording with the classic lineup, before Lee and Bill jumped ship and were replaced by Barney Greenway and the twin-guitar tandem of Jesse Pintado and Mitch Harris, and a total death metal sound resulted. Not that "Harmony Corruption" is a bad album, but this is the last of ND as pure grind we had for years before they got their act back on track and started slaying again. Hunt this fucker down and terrify the neighbors with it!