Waaaay back in the old 1980s, kiddies, me and DeHud would travel to sleazy underground pits in provincial towns where the carpet stuck to your Converse, in order to enjoy a view of some band or other that would inevitably be obscured by a seething mass of mohicans and spikes, and periodically you would enjoy that special feeling of having your face sandpapered by the studded leather shoulder of some sweaty punker in front of you as you squirmed in the raging pit. One such time, in fact make that many such times, it was at shows like this where we would see the remarkable Napalm Death.
ND were an extraordinary band when they first emerged onto the UK hardcore scene. With Lee Dorrian, perhaps the most introverted and ‘peace punk’ member, on grunted vocals, the inscrutable Bill Steer on guitar, Shane Embury on bass – a man who was cruelly nicknamed ‘microphone head’ by ‘Fat’ Rich Walker of Huddersfield’s Sore Throat, and of course the unforgettable, and legend has it unbearable Mick Harris on drums. Influenced by anything from Kreator to oodles of Japcore, they released some amazing stuff on the first two albums, and remarkably played it live as well. Peel loved them, as they were the first of the ‘1 second song’ bands which of course quickly became a boring joke as more untalented bands latched on to their notoriety.
Yep, gigs such as Liverpool Planet X [with Canada’s Subverse], Ipswich ICA [invariably with Extreme Noise Terror and Doom, and sometimes also with Steer’s other band Carcass] provided classic ND experiences. But then things went wrong. Dorrian left, after ‘musical’ and ideological differences caused him to be disgusted by the band’s direction and attitude to their increasing success. In the bitchy, back biting HC scene of the late 80s*, ND were one of Dig Pearson [Earache MD]’s fave projects and he was only too keen for them to go mainstream. Then Micky eventually left, presumably after irritating the other members beyond distraction; Barney joined on vocals, then he was replaced by the late great Phil Vane from ENT, then they both swapped places back again. And so it went on; increasingly metallic, they were decreasingly interesting to me.
But listen to this! A classic split EP with Converge – no, this isn’t the ND side, despite the rather lengthy and distracting intro. That is standard ‘big bucks’ metal, and ok, you could take the view that Converge aren’t some small struggling band touring South Yorkshire in a 1975 Transit van either – but their side really kills it. Enjoy loud.
*Footnote: Oh boy was it bitchy! I remember being in the epicentre of it, the Huddersfield/Bradford/Dewsbury axis which, outside of Birmingham’s legendary Mermaid pub venue, was the home of the most PC elements of the ‘scene’. Spinning off the 1 in 12 Club was a clique that seemed to have Sore Throat as their house band, with ‘Death to Capitalist Hardcore’ as their motto, the context of this being that basically any band which tried to make money and lift themselves out of the squat and lentils existence was immediately charged with cultural heresy in the style of Chairman Mao’s purges. Ironically, Sore Throat themselves went on to some degree of commercial notoriety, maybe not success, as did a number of other bands in that scene. Right on!