Napalm Death – Scum

I don’t like this album very much.  I think I’d like it more if most of the albums that came after it weren’t exponentially better than this.  I realize that ‘Scum’ is really just a demo with a set of bonus tracks, but it’s still sort of overly primitive to me, even as someone who enjoys crust/grind stuff.  It seems very unfocused musically compared to even the next album, and while I appreciate its contribution to grindcore as a whole, I can’t say I really enjoy listening to it very much.

Side one is substantially better than side two; a lot of people generally agree with that statement.  The second half concentrates on noisier bursts of aggression than the first.  Side A is much more musical overall with a much greater note from their early hardcore punk days.  You could say that side 2 is really where grindcore as we know it begins, albeit in a very chaotic and primordial form.  Most of the songs that everyone remembers are on side one, however, including tracks like ‘Instinct Of Survival’, the title track, and ‘Siege Of Power’.  There are some really great tracks on this release and it’s no wonder that it’s as widely lauded as it is, as it is an extremely groundbreaking and crucial release in the scheme of metal as a whole.  And yet at the same time I feel no desire to listen to it, really.

I like the tracks on ‘Scum’ much more on other recordings.  The production and playing do a lot to hurt them, honestly.  Maybe I’m not a true fan, but I like Napalm Death more when they incorporate at least a little death metal into their sound, and so I prefer tracks from ‘Scum’ with the tighter instrumentation and more death-oriented vocals that the band later grew into.  The production on this record is very weak throughout; it’s noisy but the instruments have little punch, particularly because the drums frequently overwhelm the guitars.  The playing is not very steady either, with the members of the band often falling in and out of time with each other.  It’s strange that all these imperfections are something I enjoy in other grindcore bands but find distasteful on this particular record, even when all logic says I should find it MORE acceptable than I ordinarily would.

It’s like I can understand that the music itself is of high quality but I can’t enjoy it; it’s like ‘Under The Sign Of Hell’ part two.  I like the punky/grindy riffs and the dynamic song structures that walk a very tense line between frantic chaos and speedy crust.  I enjoy how direct everything is and how a fundamental lack of subtlety is sort of made artistic by the insane brutality of the music on display.  The instrumentation is unique and groundbreaking for its time.  The overall package is extraordinary and crucial for any serious metal or grind fan to listen to several times if only for historic reasons.  But for my personal Napalm Death fix, I’ll always go to one of the band’s later albums rather than this one.  It just lacks the steadiness that I enjoy in the band’s later works.  If I want straightforward chaotic crust/grind I’ll go listen to early Extreme Noise Terror.  But for Napalm Death, I like it a bit more grounded.

Obviously this is an entirely mandatory album and I highly recommend you hear it, even if it’s not really to my tastes for reasons I don’t entirely understand.


~ by noktorn on September 8, 2008.

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