Napalm Death

From Academic Kids

Napalm Death is a grindcore band that formed in Birmingham, England in 1982 by Miles Ratlegde and Nicholas Bullen, originally under the name of Civil Defence. They are credited by many with having invented the grindcore genre. The band have no original members left. In fact, their history has been one of constant member rotation: by the first side of Scum, their debut album, the vocalist and bass player, Nik Bullen, was the only original member remaining.

Members of Napalm Death have moved on to form bands such as Carcass, Godflesh, Cathedral, and Scorn. Additionally band members have formed numerous side projects, including Painkiller, Brujeria, Lock Up, and Meathook Seed.

The name Napalm Death, was inspired by the Vietnam War.

The band earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for recording the shortest song ever, You Suffer which is precisely 1.316 seconds long and consists of the lyrics "You suffer - but why?".



Early history 1982-1986

Napalm Death started in Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, in 1982, as a Punk rock band founded by high school student Nic Bullen, Miles Ratledge and some friends they met at school. Originally, the name "Civil Defence" was used. In the beginning Napalm Death were more inspired by early punk bands, anarcho-punk and other underground acts such as Amebix and Crass. The band made a few demos and contributed their first studio recording to the Bullshit Detector Volume 3 compilation released by Crass Records.

Meanwhile, young guitarrist Justin Broadrick was playing by himself in a project called "Final". Nic Bullen met Justin Broadrick in a record shop in which both used to hang out, in Birmingham. They had similar interests (Punk Rock, Metal, Throbbing Gristle) and soon enough Justin was admitted into Nic Bullen's band. This was around May 1985, and with him came the very first metal sounds. They then recorded a demo, Hatred Surge on which they had some funny pseudonyms. The line-up described on the demo is: Nik - Vox, Just - Guitar, Nuts - Bass, Rat - Drums.

After recording the demo, Ratledge got out and Mick Harris, who was a local fan, was admitted into the band. The band then became a three piece with Nic Bullen taking over bass duties besides singing and having Broadrick only on guitar and newcomer Harris on drums. "It became more metal influenced as the three of us played more" says Harris.

After getting in touch with Digby Pearson, the owner of the small label "Earache Records", through mutual friends, Napalm Death signed a deal and recorded half of what was to be their debut album Scum in 1986. The album was yet unreleased.

Although Napalm Death was the first band who actually coined the word "Grindcore" to classify and define the type of music that they played, others had previously played very similar music. Acts such as Siege, Repulsion, Macabre, S.O.B., Larm, Heresy, Cryptic Slaughter, Nausea, were all known for playing ultra fast and brutal songs. They did not actually "invent" grindcore, but more like helped it evolve and go forward. Napalm Death was the first to actually pigeonhole those bands within a style.

At this time Bullen was both playing the bass and singing but that was soon to change. As with everything in Napalm Death. In order to make things easier to Bullen a new bassist, Jim Whitley, was called, and Bullen concentrated on singing.

During one of the concerts, the band played with Head of David, which was also a brutal band, but more industrial and Broadrick who was mad about the guys, was offered to play with them, provided that he left Napalm Death. He did not think twice before leaving Napalm Death for good, and joining Head of David on drums. Napalm Death did not have a guitarist anymore.


Shortly after Broadrick left, Bullen left as well. So they had to look for new members. Guitarist Bill Steer played in a local band called Carcass and given the affinity between the bands, he joined Napalm Death while still playing an active role in Carcass. Also, a new singer was added: Lee Dorrian. With this line-up they recorded what was to become the B side of Scum in the Rich Bitch studios in May 1987. The result was finally released trough Earache. This classic attempt against logical musical structure and good taste features seminal Grindcore classics such as "Dragnet", "Mind Control", and the yet to be surpassed "You Suffer", an exquisite piece of composition which lasts for precisely 1.316 seconds.

Shortly thereafter, the band went on tour. Napalm Death lost another member. Whitely left just before the tour for Scum. Enter Shane Embury, an avid Napalm Death fan and formerly known as the drummer for Unseen Terror. After this small line-up change, they took part in two compilations (North atlantic noise attack and the Pathological), recorded two Peel sessions and a Split 7" with Japanese grinders S.O.B.. On top of that, they went to Rich Bitch studio once more and recorded their second album: From Enslavement To Obliteration.

Very much in the same vein of the second half of Scum, From Enslavement To Obliteration differs as far as production goes, but that is about it. Following the release, Napalm Death had a participation on BBC's Arena Heavy Metal Special, which proved how successful the band could be. The band went on touring around the world for a while, but as soon as they came back home from Japan, in July 1989, Steer and Dorrian left the band. Steer decided to dedicate himself full-time to Carcass, while Dorrian formed the doom metal outfit Cathedral Soon enough the remaining members contacted Jesse Pintado (ex-Terrorizer). A new singer, Mark "Barney" Greenway, who sung in the death metal act Benediction was also called, and immediately joined.

After recruiting new members , the band took part of the Grindcrusher tour, with fellow labelmates Carcass, Bolt Thrower and Morbid Angel. After the touring, they called in a second guitarrist, Mitch Harris (ex Righteous Pigs), and soon started writing new songs with this line-up. They went to the American Death Metal producer Scott Burns who lives and works in Florida and records mostly in the Morrisound studio.


In Florida, they started working on their next album: Harmony Corruption. While writing Harmony Corruption they changed their style a little, from grindcore, to a mix of good old sonic blast beats and some slower, more rhythmic parts. It was much more death metal influenced than the previous albums, and it was a good progression as far as the compositions went. After releasing the new record, they went on touring around the world and from the material filmed at those concerts they released a home-video, Live Corruption.

Then, Mick Harris wanted to change the band, to which the band opposed. And so Harris was forced to quit Napalm Death. An thus far unknown American drummer was brought in to replace him, called Danny Herrera. Napalm Death released a new record, Utopia Banished. Now working with producer Colin Richardson. This release was a kind of "return to the roots" - grindcore.

After recording The World Keeps Turning EP, the band toured Europe with Dismember and Obituary on the "Campaign for Musical Destruction" tour. The tour continued in the US, where Napalm Death played with Cathedral, Carcass and Brutal Truth.

Thereafter, they went to the studio and recorded Fear, Emptiness, Despair. Now this was a major change. In spite of keeping all the heaviness and aggression, the new record sounded rather different. It was clear that they were trying to make their sound more modern. More rhythmic riffs and an industrial-like structure, mixed with some good old grindcore blast beats were the main ingredients of the album. Live concerts with Entombed, Obituary and Machine Head showed the audience how violent and aggressive the new Napalm Death sound was.

1994 onwards

The Greed killing EP was the next release from the band, through Earache. After the preview with the EP, Diatribes, a full-length album was released. Although things seemed to be going smoothly from outside, they were going through problems. Misunderstanding between the members and lead singer Greenway being expelled from the band in late/mid 1996. Greenway went to record with Extreme Noise Terror (the ENT release Damage 381 features Barney on lead vocals) and ENT's main singer Phil Vane went to fill vocals slot in Napalm Death. Things did not go as well as they were supposed to, and Vane was kicked out of the band just before they got into the studio to record the new album. And so Greenway returned to Napalm Death.

The next album Inside The Torn Apart which took a step back from the experimentation and displayed the first signs of a return to the good-old grindcore approach. This return was completed with the release of Enemy Of The Music Business. It shows their anger with the music industry and especially with Earache. Order Of The Leech continued where their previous album ended and can be seen as even more aggressive.

In 2004, they recorded a covers album called Leaders Not Followers: Part 2, the sequel to their earlier covers EP. It contains covers of old hardcore punk and heavy metal bands, including Cryptic Slaughter, Massacre, Kreator, Sepultura, Hirax and Discharge.

Due to personal problems, Pintado did not play on either Order of the Leech or Leaders Not Followers Pt. 2, and took leave from the band in early 2004, flying back to the United States to be with his family. It is uncertain whether he will return, but the band states that it is highly unlikely.

And in April 2005, the new album The Code is Red... Long Live the Code is released. It features guest appearances of Jeffrey Walker (formerly of Carcass), Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed vocalist) and Jello Biafra (formerly of Dead Kennedys). The album continues the band's progressive approach to their brutal brand of extreme metal, with their trademark grindcore sound retained.


Current Lineup

Past Members



  • Bullshit Detector #3 : Crucifixion Of Possessions (1984)
  • North Atlantic Noise Attack : title ? (excerpt from Scum/FETO) 1989
  • Hardcore Holocaust : Moral Crusade, M.A.D. Divine Death Control 1989
  • Grind Crusher : The Missing Link 1989
  • Grind Crusher - free 7" : You Suffer 1989
  • Hardcore Holocaust II : Walls/Raging In Hell/Conform Or Die/S.O.B. 1990
  • Pathological Compilation : Internal Animosity - unreleased song 1990
  • Grind Crusher - The Ultimate Earache : The World Keeps Turning 1992
  • Masters Of Brutality I : Suffer The Children 1992
  • Masters Of Brutality II : The World Keeps Turning 1992
  • Virus 100 : Nazi Punks Fuck Off - unreleased song 1992
  • Earplugged I : Plague Rages and State Of Mind 1994
  • Earplugged I (Japanese release): I Abstain 1994
  • Rareache : Living In Denial and Internal Animosity - unreleased songs 1995
  • Better Read Than Dead: ?? (1996)
  • Mortal Kombat (soundtrack motion picture) : Twist The Knife (slowly) 1996
  • Metallurgy I : Greed Killing demo version - unreleased song 1996
  • Earplugged II : Breed To Breathe 1997
  • Earplugged III: The Infiltraitor 1998
  • Hellspawn : Breed To Breathe remixed by DELTA 9 - unreleased song 1998
  • Anti Racist Action : Unchallenged Hate live - unreleased song (only in America) 1998
  • Hard Music News Vol 2: The Icing On The Hate 2002
  • What Lies Beneath: Silence Is Deafening 2005

External links

fr:Napalm Death ja:ナパーム・デス


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