NAPALM DEATH — Scum

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NAPALM DEATH - Scum cover
3.14 | 30 ratings | 7 reviews
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Album · 1987

Filed under Grindcore
By NAPALM DEATH

Tracklist

1. Multinational Corporations (1:06)
2. Instinct of Survival (2:26)
3. The Kill (0:22)
4. Scum (2:38)
5. Caught... in a Dream (1:47)
6. Polluted Minds (0:58)
7. Sacrificed (1:06)
8. Siege of Power (3:59)
9. Control (1:23)
10. Born on Your Knees (1:48)
11. Human Garbage (1:32)
12. You Suffer (0:04)
13. Life? (0:43)
14. Prison Without Walls (0:38)
15. Point of No Return (0:34)
16. Negative Approach (0:32)
17. Success? (1:08)
18. Deceiver (0:28)
19. C.S. (1:14)
20. Parasites (0:23)
21. Pseudo Youth (0:41)
22. Divine Death (1:20)
23. As the Machine Rolls On (0:42)
24. Common Enemy (0:16)
25. Moral Crusade (1:32)
26. Stigmatised (1:03)
27. M.A.D. (1:36)
28. Dragnet (1:01)

Total Time: 33:15

Line-up/Musicians

- Mick Harris / Drums
- Nik Bullen / Vocals, Bass (tracks 1-12)
- Justin Broadrick / Guitar (tracks 1-12)
- Lee Dorrian / Vocals (tracks 13-28)
- Bill Steer / Guitar (tracks 13-28)
- Jim Whitely / Bass (tracks 13-28)

About this release

Full-length, Earache Records
May 6th, 1987

Re-released in 2006 with bonus DVD containing "The Scum Story" documentary.

Thanks to UMUR, Stooge for the updates

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NAPALM DEATH SCUM reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

Warthur
A debut album where the first side was completed by one lineup and the second side was completed by an almost completely different lineup, with only one member performing on all the songs, isn't a promising start. Yet Napalm Death's Scum manages to transcend the chaos of its origins to present an intriguing musical vision. On the first side, the band are caught in a transitional state, moving from their crust punk origins into the their patented death metal-crust punk hybrid we now know and love as "grindcore", whereas the second side is a blistering avalanche of microtracks fully exploring the aesthetic possibilities of extremely brief songs. (It's the first side, though, which takes this idea to its illogical extreme with the 1.3 second long "You Suffer".)

Displaying just enough technical chops to tip off to the attentive listener that this isn't an accident - these dudes can play some crushingly brutal conventional death metal when they put their mind to it - Scum is a triumph of artistic experimentation over all semblance of common sense, and I love it for that.
J-Man
When it comes to grindcore, you'll have a pretty difficult time finding any album more significant than Napalm Death's legendary 1987 debut. Scum is not only considered to be grindcore's first groundbreaking release, but it has also spawned literally hundreds of copycats over the years; one could even argue that this is grindcore's genre-defining album. Scum is raw, filthy, and unpolished grindcore in its most pure and simple form - after giving this debut even one listen, it's not difficult to understand why Scum is so significant in grindcore circles, especially considering its 1987 release date. From a purely historical point of view, Scum is an album that should be in the collection of every metal fan, simply because its significance alone is enough to label it 'essential'. Unfortunately, when it boils down to the sheer quality of the music, Scum fails to live up to expectations. An interesting and important release for sure, yet I can't help but think that Scum has been outdone numerous times throughout grindcore's history.

Scum is the absolute definition of what the earliest examples of grindcore sound like. There's a firm root in hardcore punk's fast paced riffs and rough production qualities, but there's also lots of blast beats and extreme thrash-styled riffs. Hence, this marriage of hardcore punk and metal was born and named 'grindcore'. All of the songs here are also very brief (which would later become a common characteristic of grindcore), focusing more on unleashing a furious burst of anger than delivering any thought-provoking compositions. The (probably intentionally) terrible production and sloppy musicianship can make this undecipherable wall of anger and noise very difficult to appreciate, and even though I do love the energetic sound that Napalm Death shows on this debut, the music is honestly pretty poor.

This is one of those cases where, in spite of its infinite praise and legendary status, I have to say that I fail to see what's so great about this classic album. Scum is ultimately important because of its ambitious and innovative attitude, but it's a pretty shallow release when it comes to songwriting, musicianship, and production. Still, it's hard to deny the influence and significance this release has, so 2 stars seems pretty fair in this case. Napalm Death would go on to do plenty of better things, though, so I'd recommend starting later in their discography if you're curious about these English metalheads.

One interesting sidenote about Scum is the fact that the lineups of side one and side two of the original vinyl are entirely different, aside from drummer Mick Harris. It's really interesting to hear such radically different lineups on the same album, and it's actually surprising how similar both of these Napalm Death casts sound. Aside from Lee Dorian's slightly more varied vocal approach (Nik Napalm's vocals can best be described as one-dimensional shouting) and a few slight differences in production style, both portions of Scum do sound like they're from the same lineup.
UMUR
"Scum" is the debut full-length studio album by UK grindcore act Napalm Death. The album was originally independently released by the band but was soon snatched up by Earache Records for a July, 1987 release.

The story of Napalm Death goes as far back as 1982 when the band started out as a hardcore punk act. They´ve changed members frequently over the years and the lineup changes were especially frequent in the early years of the band´s existence. Therefore "Scum" actually has a rather interesting lineup history. Side 1 ( tracks 1-12) of the original vinyl version has an almost completely different lineup compared to the lineup that recorded the tracks that are featured on Side 2 ( tracks 13-28) of the original vinyl version. It´s not often you´ll find albums where the lineup varies this much between tracks. Drummer Mick Harris is the only musician present on all tracks on the album. It was obviously a transition period for the band and it´s worth noting that vocalist/ bassist Nik Bullen, who was the only founding member left in the lineup isn´t present on the tracks on Side 2. So that means that the lineup that recorded Side 2 didn´t feature a single founding member! Another thing that´s worth noting about the lineup that recorded Side 1 is that Justin Broadrick ( Godflesh, Jesu) plays guitar, and about the lineup on Side 2 that Bill Steer ( Carcass) plays guitar and Lee Dorrian ( Cathedral) delivers vocals. We are talking three very prolific musicians here and I guess that just further emphasises the importance of "Scum". Both as one of the seminal grindcore releases and as an album that spawned some of the most prolific UK metal musicians in the last 25 years.

Given the fact that the album was recorded by two different lineups and during two different sessions ( Side 1 was actually recorded and released in 1986 as a demo before appearing here), the sound and musical style is surprisingly consistent. The music varies between noisy, blasting grindcore sections and mid-paced groove based sections. The vocals are shouting and raw. The tracks are usually very short ( around the minute mark most of them) and most go by without leaving much to hold on to or remember. The longest track on the album "Siege of Power", is interestingly enough, also the most memorable track on the album. Well and then of course the 1 second long track "You Suffer", which has become a Napalm Death live classic. It´s always entertaining when they do encores of that song.

The 28 track album is over in little over half an hour and there you have it. One of the most important releases in grindcore history. Looked upon objectively the musicianship is a bit sloppy, the production is unpolished and at times messy and noisy and it´s apparent not much thought was given to writing varied material, but it´s still one of the most important albums in the grindcore genre. You probably won´t find a single grindcore act that isn´t influenced by "Scum" in some way. Still I try and avoid giving out ratings based on influence alone but focus more on the actual quality of the music, production and musicianship and in that respect "Scum" isn´t the most impressive grindcore release out there. Therefore a 2.5 star rating is warranted.
Time Signature
Sucess?...

Genre: grindcore

One of the strange bastard children of metal and punk is grindcore, and "Scum" is one of the most important grindcore releases of all time, a seminal release in both grindcore and death metal - very much like Carcass' "Reek of Putrfaction".

As other reviewers have pointed out before me, this album is at lease as much a punk release as a metal release. While ther eis a lot of metal-like riffage on this album and blastbeats galore (there are even elements on the first half of the album which seem derived from hard rock, and, in addition, there are some Hellhammer/Celtic Frost-sounding breakdowns hither and thither), the DIY approach to production and the focus on expression rather than performance is very punky (and there are also a lot of simpler hardcore punk-like riffs). In addition the politically and socially aware lyrics were also more typical of punk music than metal music at the time.

Productionwise, the album is sloppy all the way through - especially the the tracks recorded by the Dorrian-fronted line-up. But at least it came out better than "Reek of Putrefaction"; "Reek..." is musically more interesting though. The bass is ridiculously distorted and everything sounds messy all the way through on "Scum", but that is, of course, considered a quality among punk music fans. The vocals are more interesting on the second half, as Dorrian experiments more with grunting, growling and screaming, while Nick Bullen mostly just yells, using the same rhythmic patterns all the way through.

Amidst all the noise, there are some very cool riffs, breakdowns and changes which make this album interesting for other reasons than its historic value, and, of course, this being political grindcore, the lyrics actually have something to say, which might be worthwhile (well, read the lyric sheets, because I don't think you'll be able to decipher them otherwise).

This is not a very good album in terms of musical quality. I like the expressive value and the outbursts of rage of the frantic blasting short tracks, and the energy of the more hardcore punkish midpaced tracks and breakdowns. And, then it's of course an extremely important album in the history of grindcore and metal. I think those factors warrant at least two stars.
topofsm
For those who are looking for classic death metal at some of it's earliest incarnations, Napalm Death is your band. If that's the case though, why is this album rated so low? Well, to be honest this isn't quite as classic as the band is. Sure, it also was the forefront of grindcore in it's heyday, but there are still a few kinks in the genre to 'grind' out.

Therefore this album is more of a punk release than anything. It was created when the term grind was just being termed, and was a heavier evolution of punk music. This shows, as most of the ever-so-short songs don't even cross into tempos of modern grind as we know it. A lot of the time there are slower (for grind) tempos that almost sound groovy.

The instruments and production don't really help either. Granted, grindcore is the last place you are going to find sparkling clean production or flawless musicianship, but the early production really comes off as quite fuzzy and sloppy. The vocals would improve vastly in later releases as well.

Overall, it's apparent that not every genre-creating album can be a flawless masterpiece, and Scum is a pretty good example. For those looking for Napalm Death's best, the later death material is what you should be looking for. And there are far better early grindcore releases, one such influential one being Horrified by Repulsion. Therefore, if you're going to get this album, it's going to be for the gimmick that it's the first grindcore album, and not much else.
Stooge
28 tracks at only 33 minutes? Interesting. Of further interest, Scum documents two different Napalm Death lineups on a single release. The only member who plays on the entire album is drummer Mick Harris.

The first bunch of songs, tracks 1 through 12, features Harris alongside vocalist/bassist Nick Bullen, and guitarist Justin Broadrick. The bulk of these tracks are very much punk rock influenced when it comes to the riffing. Harris’ frantic blast-beats and super distorted guitars helped to tie this album into the metal genre. Tracks such as “Scum” start at the slow and sludgy and bounce between this and more of a hardcore tempo. The track “You Suffer” is notable for being only a few seconds in length, making one question whether or not what they just heard can be actually considered a song. My favorite tracks from this section of the album are “Instinct of Survival” and “Siege Of Power”.

The remaining tracks on Scum have Harris accompanying guitarist Bill Steer, vocalist Lee Dorian, and bassist Jim Whitely. The recording quality of these tracks is significantly different, neither one being notable from a production standpoint. This is a purely D.I.Y. album where the energy of the tracks is the most important factor, not how they are recorded. Dorian’s vocals are less audible than Bullen’s, and the guitar, bass, and drum sound varies from track to track. My favorites from these tracks include “Deceiver” and “M.A.D.”. Overall, I prefer the tracks from the first half of the lineup as the stronger riffs give each song more of an identity.

There is no doubt that as it is Napalm Death’s debut, Scum is a flawed record. I was considering giving Scum a 2.5 rating, but I’ll add 0.5 for it’s historical significance and since it helped give birth to a new sub-genre of metal. It’s a good album that will no doubt please grindcore purists (Does it get any more pure than this?), and may even attract fans of punk and thrash metal. I’d recommend picking up the 2006 version of the album to get a historical perspective on the album as it includes the documentary “The Scum Story”.

Members reviews

DamoXt7942
Exactly this. Such an unpolished, unrefined Napalm Death soundscape is definitely my favourite. This album “Scum” was released in 1987 as the debut full-length album of a British hardcore / thrash metal unit NAPALM DEATH. In those days Napalm Death's sound style was slightly different from the current one … Quite aggressive and violent indeed, but a bit awkward and charming (in a good sense of course). Their strict rhythmic stream and sincere voice distortion would be accomplished a couple of years later, and such a dissected atmosphere in a non-methodological manner sounds pretty unique and fascinating nowadays, let me say.

"Multinational Corporations” the first severely lethal attack of Nik’s “death” voices drives the audience mad definitely. No theoretical texture nor calculated flavour is here. The following "Instinct Of Survival” is another infernal revelation with superb metallic taste of blood. Very addictive is even 20 seconds short psychopath “The Kill”. The title track blended with downtempo heavy-meatllic vibes and speedy vital grandeur should express themselves thoroughly. Basically bombastic sound explosion along with meaningless (maybe) shout acts, gorgeously melodic guitar play, and powerful speedy drumming (Tim Morse might be incredibly inspired by Mick, I suppose). From “Life?” (namely upon Side B of the lp) Lee replaces Nik as a vocalist and Bill plays guitar in a more and more speedier manner. Their soundscape gets to be killa aggression and momentary sound discharge. Amazing power and torsion is in their inner world, but the same intention for thrash hardcore / deathcore like material upon Side A is here, and obviously not refined nor technical.

In conclusion, sounds like this album would be created and produced under a flexible, optimistic situation, at least for me. A young, promising combo might discharge such an enthusiastic stuff without breathing at all, I guess. Shall you enjoy the great debut creation with feeling so?

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