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Essential Death-Grind Rampage - 76%

Annable Courts, September 15th, 2020

Pure, unadulterated resentful death-grind. That description alone would suffice.

Each track consists of scornful death metal tremolo picking over blast beats, excellent sinister single note riffing and uptempo grindish power chord sections. The riffs are driven and inspired, dark and nihilistic in tone, and display spot-on distribution between those different modes with how the grind alternates with the death metal. The vocals are unleashed and utterly irreverent. The bass is aggro overdriven sub presence to fill in the center of the tracks. The drums sound alive and authentic, with particularly punchy snares and kicks that sound fairly modern for 1990. In fact all of the kicks, snares and toms were given that tight compressed tone (that producers would later exaggerate in modern metal) and the album generally feels rhythmically tight and clean, allowing the guitars and vocals to come through with more clarity.

The production/sensation throughout the album is one of smothering. The sound is purposely muffled and oppressive. The guitars have that pure early 90's death metal ominous tone to them, and where they lack the definition of later death metal they make up for with a tone that I could only describe as underground like. The power chords sound meaty and voracious. The blast beats are furious. It's a delight of early extreme metal.

Interestingly, this album feels more organized than some of the later albums. One might think since Napalm are a band that started as full-on grindcore and later turned to death metal more, that the closer to their early works the more chaotic. And yet this one definitely feels more structured and tightly put together than, say, the very loose 'Fear, Emptiness, Despair' from 4 years later.

The album possesses a bit of an aura to it, starting with the album cover and main title. 'Harmony Corruption' is one of these titles that seem to work on multiple levels of meaning. It feels like it carries an important message, that's both current and timeless simultaneously. The album cover is also obscure, and cryptic with what its exact message is, but it's highly evocative and strangely fits the music despite being cartoonish in style. It's like the relation between its implicit violence and the brutal nature of the music makes sense.

One aspect about this record is also its modernity for its time and its historical significance in the field and beyond. Not many bands were sounding like full on death metal back in 1990 and the very musical concept was in its infancy. Lots of bands already had death metal elements in their music, but few sounded like full-fledged death metal with all of blast beats, growls, the whole guitar arsenal with tremolo picking, massive power chords, and that deep/dark subversive feel in the riffs in general. Most bands that dabbled in the genre still sounded somewhat thrashy. And for a band to release a record this heavy at the very start of the 90's, when groove metal only became a thing much later, is a notable feat in itself.

The songs do a great job at executing the riffs and making sure they're straight to the point and don't linger, as the tracks rarely make it over 4min. There's nothing but relevant, efficient riffing on display from start to finish, and given the brutal/unrelenting nature of the music they did really well at not blatantly repeating themselves or sounding like the whole thing is just one variation of the one same song. For the listener that enjoyed the opener, it's a quality ride all the way through, while of course it might get a tad tiring after about half an hour and 10 tracks in, simply because the music is taxing and nonstop action.