Scum (CD/DVD Dual Disc)
Seminal album reissue gets the “classic album” doco treatment
Napalm Death are true musical pioneers that have not sold their soul for rock 'n' roll so to speak. Who would have thought that 20 years ago, they would revolutionise extreme music, in particular this beast called grindcore? It probably wasn't something that the young group set out to achieve, but history shows us that they did. It is only fitting then that the label that fostered not only Napalm Death, but many of the bands that resulted from various members pursuing other projects (either as members of former members of Napalm Death), release a special edition of the band's seminal debut, Scum. No, it's not remastered (thankfully!!) and updated. The album itself is pure and retains the gritty, raw sound that helped establish these lads from Birmingham, England. The big bonus is the 48 minute documentary which intricately tells the tale of the group and their pioneering debut.
The album itself is in its rawest form - 28 tracks, 33 minutes. Only one track is greater than three minutes, two are greater than two minutes and the rest simply blast through at a blistering pace. But never has there been truer sense of the concept of an album having a side A and side B than with Napalm Death's Scum. Side A's line-up features guitarist Justin Broadrick (who went on to be a member of Head Of David, form Godflesh and now Jesu), bassist/vocalist Nik Bullen and drummer Mick Harris, and is responsible for 12 classic Napalm tracks, including The Kill, Scum, Siege Of Power, Control and possible the shortest song ever recorded, the one and a half second blast called You Suffer. Side B sees Harris as the only constant with vocalist Lee Dorian (who went on to form Cathedral), guitarist Bill Steer (who was also in Carcass at this time) and bassist Jim Whitley (who left the band after recording the B side) making up the line-up. Sixteen tracks with a noticeably different guitar tone that was downtuned (Steer's trademark also used in Carcass) would see the band's brilliance shine in generally shorter songs, including classics such as Life?, Success?, Deceiver and Stigmatized. The album itself would be a blueprint for a new genre called grindcore.
Scum has been around for 20 years now, and even with its status today and historical significance, it was never, ever going to receive the “classic album” treatment that the likes of Metallica's 1991 self titled album and Judas Priest's British Steel officially received. That is until now, and Earache Records have issue the album as a dual disc - audio on one side, DVD video on the other - containing a 48 minute comprehensive documentary lead by ex-drummer Mick Harris. This doco is outstanding and essential viewing for not only fans of the band, but grindcore lovers in general. Harris takes us through the details of the scene at the time, the first time he saw the band live and his eventual joining of the band's ranks, the band's line-up changes throughout that period, significant places of the band's history (including the house where he and Broadrick jammed on Napalm material for the first time, Rich Bitch Studios where the album was recorded and mixed in 160 hours for a total of 240 pounds and the regular gig venue The Mermaid) and shares a wealth of detailed info about the band, and the writing and recording process behind one of metal's most influential albums of all time. The doco also features input from Earache Records boss Digby Pearson, music journalists Dom Lawson and Malcome Dome, and artist 2006 Turner Prize nominee Mark Titchner (who explains how the band's music has influenced him), all of which further explain the importance of Napalm's debut effort.
I normally don't dig on reissues. Often, they are simple money grabs offering very little incentive for fans to shell out their hard earned cash. Sure, they may have new artwork (whoopi-do!!) or maybe a bonus track or two (which you usually find were not included the first time around for a bloody good reason), but nothing compares to this. Not only is the album's integrity maintained remaining untouched after 20 years, but it is complimented with an outstanding “classic albums” styled doco that gives you the first complete, detailed look into the formative years of a band who would not only define a new style at such a young age, but would continue to be a leader and not a follower for the next two decades. This is as essential as it gets!
(Earache Records/Riot! Distribution)
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