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Napalm Death - the Earache years - 85%

Manchester_Devil, September 26th, 2004

Released by Earache after the label and band kissed and made up after the latter left the former under a cloud, this double CD ‘best of’ charts Napalm Death’s time with Earache from 1986 to 1998. Disc 1 is basically “Napalm Death – the Earache years”, so don’t go expecting post-Earache goodies from the Leaders not Followers albums, “Enemy of the Music Business” and “Order of the Leech” while Disc 2 has goodies like the entire “Mentally Murdered” EP, bonus songs, some covers pre-Leaders not Followers, original mixes and more.

Disc 1 contains what Napalm Death and Earache have chosen as the best songs from Napalm’s time at the label, from time honoured favourites like “Scum”, “From Enslavement to Obliteration” and “Mass Appeal Madness” to the more experimental period (experimental by Napalm Death’s standards) like “Greed Killing” “Armageddon x 7” and “Diatribes”.

Anything from “Scum” and FETO (the album, not the bands own label for those watching in black and white) are guaranteed to kick your arse from the get go and grind themselves into your mind. Whenever you like to or not are academic. Otherwise, it’s rather a case of hit or miss, depending on your view, which in my case is well, hit and miss. Barney Greenway’s early vocals performances for the Grindcore greats are steady growlers though he later comes into his own near the end of Napalm Death’s time with Earache. It’s probably because his early performances suffered from being under Lee Dorrian’s shadow or the fans expectations being on him.

As for the post FETO songs on the disc, some songs work and some don’t, the good songs of the group are “Contemptuous” (an good example of the band’s ability to perform slower songs), Barney’s version of “Social Sterility” (an improvement over the FETO version), “Lowpoint” (reminds me of the Scum album), “Hung” (Heavy cruncher of riffage and blastbeats), “Next of Kin to Chaos” (One of Barney’s greatest vocal performances) and “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” (good cover of the Dead Kennedy’s song). Weaker songs of the group such as the “Death by Manipulation” versions of “Unchallenged Hate” and “Siege of Power” (both are a good reason not the re-record songs by your former vocalist, 9 times out of 10, it just isn’t the same), “The Infiltraitor” (bland) and “Diatribes” (too much focus of effects and not enough on riffs and drumming, also bland).

One maybe hard done by the fact that there aren’t more songs from both the Scum and FETO albums but the band has done more then those two greats that propelled the band into living legends. Another minus for disc 1 is that some albums are neglected than others (Harmony Corruption for example).

Disc 2 is where we have some rarities from Napalm Death’s past for those into Napalm Death before and since “Scum” and for those who been into Napalm Death the 1990’s and beyond who want a taste of Napalm Death’s past, in fact, this disc goes into the band’s pre-Earache past with “The Traitor” and “Abattoir”. Some rare material heard for the first time (“Scum” with Lee Dorrian on vocals) amongst others. Again, the quality varies, the Mentally Murdered EP featured what can said to be the best material by the line up that gave the world FETO (Lee, Bill, Shane and Mick), the solo on “Walls of Confinement” is probably the best solo Bill had ever done in his career. Mick never sounded any better here as well and Lee was at his most guttural for the recordings, the riffage on display is nice and crunchy and above all, arse kicking.

Beyond that, we go back into hit-and-miss country here, though there’s more “hits” than “misses” with an extra of oddness thrown for good measure. In the hits section, we have “Pride Assassin” (good cross between FETO production and Harmony Corruption), “Malignant Trait” (Pure blasting to great effect and riffs that eat you alive), “Insanity Excursion”and “Politics of Common Sense” While in the misses section, dishonourable mentions go to “Twist the Knife Slowly original mix” (bland and not heavy by ND standards).In the odd-as-hell section, and honourable mentions go to the live covers of Godflesh’s “Avalanche Master Song” (the hell?) and “Deceiver” which had a different intro to the song on the “Scum” album (the intro was by a band called The Swankys, which was a serious case of what the fuck?) and the Swans inspired “Internal Animosity” (the FETO line up doing an atmospheric song? Blimey!).

With the two pre-Scum songs, “The Traitor” and “Abattoir” reflection the band’s early days as a Punk band going into a metamorphosis into the beast that resulted in “Scum”. The production values vary from song to song on both discs as does the guitar tuning, from good to raw and sometimes slightly iffy. One has to remember this is Napalm Death, the very early years to Napalm Death, the Experimental years via the Spotlight years etc.

Despite some weak songs selected and the rare appearances of Nik Bullen and Lee Dorrian on disc 1. This is a collector’s item for old and new fans alike, worth purchasing.

EDIT: Swans never did "Internal Animosity", Napalm Death were inspired by them for the song.