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  • Sep 21, 2014
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ALBUM (1988)

Rewind album: From Enslavement to Obliteration, by Napalm Death

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 November, 2013, 5:17pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 November, 2013, 5:17pm

From Enslavement to Obliteration
Napalm Death
Earache

Arguably the world's most extreme musical genre was born in the mid-1980s when heavy metal collided with hardcore punk and gave birth to the grossly mutated offspring known as grindcore.

Grindcore took the distorted, downtuned guitars of heavy metal, the incredibly fast drumbeats and political lyrics of hardcore punk, added demonic growls and shrieks as vocals, put everything into an industrial-sized blender and turned it onto 11. If Phil Spector made a wall of sound, grindcore produced a wall of sheer, terrifying noise.

One of the originators of the sound were Napalm Death, a band who formed as teenagers in Birmingham in 1981, and were originally inspired by Britain's anarcho-punk movement, particularly groups such as political punks Crass.

Napalm Death first came to global attention with their blistering 1987 debut Scum, which features 28 tracks crammed into 33 minutes, and contains what Guinness World Records has recognised as the world's shortest song: You Suffer, a 1.3-second blast of noise with the lyrics, "You suffer/But why?"

On the band's second album from the next year, From Enslavement to Obliteration, everything was ratcheted up a notch further: the metal elements were more pronounced, the blast beats were even faster, the lyrics focusing on conformity and mental enslavement more extreme.

Many tracks took the classic metal riffs of Black Sabbath and Motorhead as starting points, but soon descended into barely controlled outbursts of pure speed and fury. Music this fast and extreme had never been heard before, and it caught the ears not only of headbangers but also the noise community and - perhaps unexpectedly - the free-jazz movement.

Lyrically, the album deals with how conformity and subservience to ruling authorities and multinational corporations have rendered humanity a soulless, enslaved species. Not that you'd know this by listening to the tracks: the lyric sheets that came with the vinyl albums were needed to decipher the unintelligible vocals.

Napalm Death lost their way after Enslavement - it was impossible to get any faster or more extreme, and when the band reappeared in 1990 with their next proper album, Harmony Corruption, they were a fairly standard death metal outfit without most of the members who had recorded Scum and Enslavement. But the impact of their early years continues to reverberate because of the contributions of its early members to modern metal - guitarist Justin Broadrick (later of Godflesh and Jesu), vocalist Lee Dorrian (Cathedral) and guitarist Bill Steer (Carcass) - and the legacy of that now 25-year-old landmark of musical extremity, From Enslavement to Obliteration.

Adam Wright

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