I like grindcore, but it’s mostly stuff from the pioneering albums from Repulsion, Carcass, Terrorizer, Extreme Noise Terror etc. because it seems like most grindcore bands (particularly nowadays) sound like a joke. Most modern grindcore suffers from overproduced sound quality, lack the punk influence that’s so important, and the vocals are either too high-pitched or have stupid pig squeals (or god forbid, both). Those are the main reasons why I hate modern grind like Pig Destroyer and Psyopus. Old-school grind was awesome because the sound was really fast and rough and the vocals were like a deranged pitbull gnawing at an intruder’s leg.
“Scum” is an interesting album in the sense that it’s the only album I can think of that has two different line-ups on the two halves of it. Mick Harris played drums on all 28 tracks. Tracks 1-12 had Nik Bullen (bass/vocals) and Justin Broadrick (guitars); tracks 13-28 had Lee Dorian (vocals), Bill Steer (guitar), and Jim Withley (bass). The first half of this album is way better than the second because the sound is better (but not polished), and the songs feel more like songs than mini-songs despite also being short. Since the two halves are radically different, I’ll review them separately.
Side A (tracks 1-12)
As stated earlier, this is far and away the best part of “Scum,” and accounts for most of my positive rating. The sound for this half of the album was PERFECT. You can hear all of the instruments and vocals but are in a sea of fuzziness that makes it all sound raw and adds to the intensity of the music, this will definitely turn off the scene kids who only like modern grind. Side A is also very interesting in that this would the last Napalm Death recording with any of its original members; who in this case, is Nik Bullen. This is also seen as a link between ND’s punk demos and their transformation into what we know today as grindcore, considering that several of their older punk tunes are on here but played faster and are much more brutal. The general formula for Side A is industrial-tinged punk guitar riffs, furious blastbeats, fuzzy bass lines, and “pitbull” vocals; there really isn’t much more to it but boy does it work!! All of the songs are good here, even the really short ones like “The Kill” (20 seconds), “Polluted Minds” (1:02 minutes), and the infamous “You Suffer,” which is only one second long. The standout tracks have to be “Multinational Corporations/Instinct of Survival” (this can be viewed as one track since they run together perfectly), “Scum,” “Sacrificed,” “Siege of Power,” and “Human Garbage” because they have the best use of dynamics and are therefore, the most memorable. I’ll describe two of the songs for you in greater detail because they’re so great. “Multinational Corporations/Instinct of Survival” starts off with some symbol tapping and some guitar distortion noises while Nik repeats “Multinational corporations, genocide of the starving nations.” It soon ends and “Instinct of Survival” kicks in with a mid-paced crust punk riff, at the 40 second mark a maelstrom of blastbeats is emitted and Nik grunts “RAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!” That’s one of the best openings I’ve ever heard for any album. The lyrics to this particular song are awesome, pure hatred for unruly corporations:
The multinational corporation
Makes its profit from the starving nations
Indigenous peoples become their slaves
From their births into their graves
“Scum” is probably the most beloved track from this album, and for good reason, it’s a beast. It starts off with slow bass riffs then kicks into some mid-paced guitar riffs. It slows down again but at the 1:14 mark the guitar riffs kick into high gear with furious punk riffs followed by those blastbeats then Bullen screams his lungs out. Bullen quiets down and the song reverts to the original mid-paced riff section, only to be followed by the fast part again, Bullen caps off the song with the rest of the lyrics.
Side B of “Scum” was recorded when Bullen and Broadrick left ND to pursue different musical paths, but Mick Harris wanted to keep the band going so he hired Bill Steer of Carcass fame to play guitars, Jim Withley from the British crust punk band Ripcord to play bass, and Lee Dorian to do vocals. I like Side B, but it pales in comparison to Side A mostly because it feels rushed. Side B also had a much stronger metal influence than Side A mostly due to Dorian’s weird combination of death grunts and screams that sound like the Tasmanian Devil. The sound quality is really different as well, while Side A has a sharp hardcore punk feel to it, Side B feels muddy and not quite as intense. While none of the songs on either side are especially long (Minus “Siege of Power, which is roughly four minutes long.), most of the songs on Side B feel somewhat like a bunch of rushed mini songs. Despite these setbacks, Side B is still a good listen. “Life?,” “Negative Approach,” “Deceiver,” “Parasites,” and “Divine Death” are classic ND songs on Side B. The best song on Side B has to be “Divine Death” because the dynamics are on par with the classics on Side A and Dorian perfectly utilizes his dual vocal style on this song, I especially like his ending of the song repeating the song title as it gradually fades out.
There’s been some debate among grindcore fans and metal enthusiasts concerning if Repulsion’s “Horrified” (another great album) or “Scum” pioneered grindcore. I say neither because the style known as grindcore was really pioneered by crust punk bands like Electro Hippies, Ripcord, and Siege. However, I will say that “Scum” was more of a grindcore album because “Horrified” had a stronger metal influence while “Scum” had equal amounts of punk and metal in their sound.
If you love extreme metal and extreme punk, chances are you aren’t afraid of really short songs and in that case, don’t hesitate on buying “Scum” if you don’t own it already. Not for people who only listen to mainstream metal acts because the abrasive sound quality, short song lengths, and lack of melody will surely offend them. A legendary album, and a great listen!!