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Cursed To Endure - 50%

televiper11, September 23rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, Earache Records (Sampler Promo)

I interned at a college radio station in high school and it had a huge impact on my musical life because I got access to the station's musical archive as well as their discard bin. Into the discard bin went most of the extreme music promos as the station had no dedicated underground hardcore/punk/metal show at the time and I pilfered from that bin big time. One item I distinctly remember picking up was this Napalm Death/At The Gates split promo. I was already a big fan of Napalm Death but At The Gates were entirely new to me. At the time, this split had a big impact on me but that impact has lessened considerably with age. The distance of time and perpetual re-releasing of material by both bands has rendered most of the material on here inert.

Napalm Death promo two songs off their Diatribes album coupled to two rarer b-sides. Like most of the music from this era in ND's history, the b-side material is far superior to the album cuts. "Cursed To Crawl" is one of the worst songs in N.D. history and an unfortunate choice to start things off here. I distinctly remember being unimpressed the first time I heard N.D. try and emulate bands like Helmet and Prong, complete with start-stop staccato riffing and slightly-filtered clean vocals. "Take The Strain" isn't much better, the Helmet influence is even more pronounced in the riffing, though Barney's gruff vocals are thankfully back out front cuz without them, you'd be hard pressed to even guess this is Napalm Death. "Food Chains" and "Politics Of Common Sense" are so much better. Both songs have that sickening lurch of the F.E.D. recordings complete with ugly guitar tone and harsh double-bass grooves more akin to Obituary. These songs definitely feel like pre-Diatribes recordings and were super-rare until the Noise For Music's Sake comp came out.

As for At The Gates, they were completely new to me at the time and my opinions coming out of my initial listens were totally uninformed, though I still think that gut reaction is credible. Not knowing the band's history, I felt like I was listening to an unfortunate Heartwork style Carcass clone. Tomas Lindberg's screeching scream-shouts did not appeal to me at all (and I still don't like his ATG style nearly as much as when he fronts grind or crust) and the slicker-than-slick production really turned me off. The two tracks from Slaughter Of The Soul had elements I could dig, particularly in the riffs, but mostly I was turned off by the vocals, very stock drums, and cheesy production. As with N.D., I much preferred the b-sides: "Legion" pummels more like Deicide and showcased deeper vox and more varied drumming. "The Dying" too is monstrous in the riff department but again I am turned off by the vocals and drums. ATG just didn't click with me and in the years since that has remained the case personally.

I held on to this split for a long time but stopped playing it aside from those rare N.D. tracks. Now the disc is worthless as everything once exclusive to it has surfaced elsewhere. Had ATG really struck me, I might still be grateful for the introduction and in some ways I am given I have since enjoyed vocal work by Tomas Lindberg for Lock-Up and Skitsystem.

Napalm Death: 56%
At The Gates: 43%
Overall: 49.5% (rounded up)