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What we have here are two separate recordingsessions released as a single album. Also the line-up had changed halfway. So no wonder the A and B side sound quite different.
The first half were recordings from august 1986 when Justin Broadrick and Nik Bullen were still in the band. Justin already had a characteristic way of playing guitar, incorporating an industrial touch at times, a lot of feedback and playing punk riffs in a way you’d expect from Celtic Frosts Tom Warrior. Combined with the more hardcore punk attitude of vocalist/bassist Nik Bullen it gave Napalm Death their own specific sound in 1986.
Drummer Mick Harris and Heresy drummer Steve Charlesworth had been competing with eachother live in terms of playing faster than eachother. As a result Napalm Death in 1986 sounded twice as fast as they did during their “Hatred Surge” days when drummer Miles Ratledge was still in the band. This line-up recorded the A-side of the album which included a lot of their older punk songs but placed at a higher pace than before (for instance 'Instinct Of Survival', 'Control' and 'Sacrificed') and some new, shorter and more brutal tunes.
As a result the A-side can be seen as a transitional period between hardcore punk and grindcore as we know it now. Not only are these songs very enjoyable but from an historical point of view rather experimental and groundbreaking. A Napalm Death fan cannot imagine the band with their all time classics ‘Control’, ‘Siege of Power’, the titletrack and of course the shortest ND song ever, ‘You Suffer’ (Guiness Book Of Records: 1,316 seconds)
There are those who dislike the punk attitude of side-A. Are they having difficulties accepting that grindcore emerged largely from the punkscene? The fact that grindore later on got a life of it’s own within the metal scene doesn’t change that. Please go look for the 1984-1985 recordings of the American band Siege and check out old interviews with grindcore bands about their influences. Without punk there wouldn’t have been grindcore nor even thrash metal for that matter! Live with it. And the influence of punk on grindcore can’t be more obvious than on the first half of this record. It was history in the making.
Due to Nik and Justin leaving, the B-side was a result of Mick Harri’s persistence of continuing the band. With Bill Steer, Lee Dorian and Jim Whitley the ‘new’ group focussed on the fastest elements of the earlier recordings and left punk for what it was. One can hear Dorian and Steer still struggling with getting into this new style and they don’t sound convincing all the time yet (something which became more obvious when the From Enslavement LP was released on which they sounded briliant!). Still the B-side had a lot to offer. It was more consistent than before, faster and some instant classics like ‘Conservative Shithead’, ‘Life?’, ‘Moral Crusade’ and ‘Deceiver’.
For some a lot of songs on this album have too much punk in them. Other find Side-B too montome compared to the variation in styles and pace on the A-side. In the end it’s an album that in itself shows the remarkable evolution of a young band and incidentally influencing metal headsa dn punks all over the world.
To people who grew up with polished (modern) grindcore and find this album not to be brutal enough or too sloppy I can only say: these were a bunch of youngsters, without cash, experimenting and having fun. Don’t expect a 21st century sound nor triggered super tight drums from a 1987 (underground) release. And heavy guitars do not automatically make something ‘brutal’. They just make it… heavy….
Napalm Death weren’t heavy, they were musically structured noise with a message. A buch of youngsters who used to play punk but under the influence of Genocide (Repulsion) and Siege got a whole lot of new ideas about extreme music…