It’s somewhat hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the release of this record… Little did people know that in fact this particular album would change the extreme music world for long. I mean, I remember having been extremely impressed by the March and August ’86 demos that drummer / mainman Mick Harris had sent me way prior the band had got a record deal with the incredible speed injected into the early material (which simply propelled NAPALM DEATH as one of the world’s fastest acts along with GENOCIDE / REPULSION, WEHRMACHT, INSANITY, NYC MAYHEM, CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER and ARCHENEMY) but never I had imagined that they would become the beast they would be a couple years later as well as an influential act for billions of bands worldwide. Proof that everything in music is unpredictable if that needed to be said… "Scum" was an album made with two different recordings put together, done by two different line-ups and 20 years later this is still what made me think that this album is only half of what it should have been in terms of sheer quality. Side A was recorded during August 1986 as a three piece (Mick Harris – drums, Justin Broadrick – guitar and Nik Bullen – bass / vocals), and was at first nothing but a 12 track demo which found its way quickly into the underground (Mick’s involvement into the tape trading world had of course something to do with this). What you were getting on that recording was simply not really something never heard before (after all CRAB SOCIETY NORTH for example had already penned extremely short ‘songs’ and as I have mentioned before there was bands around that were playing as fast (or faster) as NAPALM DEATH) but a mixture of different elements that could only come from England, a blend of brutal Punk / Hardcore with the heaviest elements of extreme Metal at that time. Just try to imagine DISCHARGE meeting CELTIC FROST, two different worlds mixed together that would become that hybrid monster known as NAPALM DEATH. Alternating between short / hyper fast Hardcorish tunes like ‘The Kill’, ‘Polluted Minds’, ‘You Suffer’, much more controlled ones (like a verse being super heavy and pure Metal sounding and suddenly it turns into some uncontrollable burst of speed), ‘Scum’, ‘Control’, ‘Caught In A Dream’… while one tune which always been my fave since day one, ‘Siege Of Power’, has more to do with Metal than anything else, Mick Harris sounding like a total killer drummer on this one as he was injecting a drive to the song instead of making noise for the sake of it as he often did later on. On top of this you get those extreme vocal lines that are full of aggression and hate, quite unique in those times. Next you get the other half of "Scum" recorded during early 1987 with a brand new line-up (Lee Dorian – vocals, Mick Harris – drums, Bill Steer – guitar and Jim Whitley – bass, who shortly after got replaced by ex-WARHAMMER member, Shane Embury). And that’s another story as Mick had become the main songwriter in the band at that point, the whole musical approach being changed. Back then, I had been shocked and disappointed (even disgusted) to the highest level with that new recording and listening to it nowadays for that review didn’t change my mind at all. This recording could have been done by noisy bands like AGATHOCLES, ANAL CUNT and other talentless acts but it’s hard to believe those guys came up with that nonsense noise right after the killer August ’86 demo regarding the influences they were mentioning at the time. What will never work with me comes from three factors mainly: 1) the barking ‘vocals’ courtesy of Dorrian which are simply disgusting at best comparing to the powerful vocal delivery courtesy of Bullen. 2) the way the songs had been penned having no hooks (yeah even extreme songs needs hooks and earlier NAPALM DEATH material had hooks!) or vibes, being just short bursts of noise not helped by a flat guitar sound with no definition at all (best proof regarding this aspect is the fact that once Jesse Pintado had started playing songs from that era, he had given them a totally new life – completed by Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway devastating vocal lines). 3) Mick’s drumming on this recording (and also on "F.E.T.O.") had no drive at all, having based his fast drumming on bashing his cymbals over and over instead of delivering straight devastating drumming lines like Dave "Grave" or Bud Mills were doing… and that has always been a major flaw in my opinion. So "Scum" has always been a semi successful (in terms of quality) in my book and 20 years later the feeling is still the same no matter what. But this said, I guess there’s not many people around that are not familiar with that semi legendary release and have already forged their own opinion about it – most of them will probably think I’m a fool, for those who have never heard it, it’s never too late with this new edition as a dual disc. The DVD part (playing time: 47:50min) features an in-depth interview with ex-NAPALM DEATH drummer Mick Harris about the early days of the band and the origin of the "Scum" album. You can either watch the whole piece in a row or select specific parts through the DVDs menu. The topic’s titles should already speak for themselves: ‘Where it began’, ‘The Mermaid’, ‘Rich Bitch Studios’, ‘Napalm & Earache’, ‘The B-Side’, ‘Influences’, ‘Shortest Songs’, ‘The Blast Beat’ and ‘Door Kicking’. Additionally to Mick you’ll also get comments from two journalists (Malcolm Dome and Dom Lawson), Digby Pearson (head of Earache Records) and artist Mark Titchner. Even though I found it highly interesting all in all, comments from the other original NAPALM DEATH members and / or a little bit of vintage video live/rehearsal footage would have made it even more exciting. But hey, you basically get this for free when you’re buying the "Scum" re-issue, so there’s definitely no need to complain.
Laurent Ramadier (audio side) / Frank Stöver (DVD side)
• NAPALM DEATH - Apex Predator - Easy Meat (Rafael Bracero)
• NAPALM DEATH - The Code Is Red... Long Live The Code (Laurent Ramadier)
• NAPALM DEATH - Noise For Music's Sake (Frank Stöver)
• NAPALM DEATH - Utilitarian (Julián “Quarantined” Nuñez)
• NAPALM DEATH - Leaders Not Followers' Part 2 (Roy Kristensen)