Volume 92, Issue 93

Wednesday, March 24, 1999


True Crime escapes capital punishment

Underground Sound

A passionless Hollywood

Bullock's Force carries new film

Underground Sound

By Sara Falconer
Gazette Staff

Throughout their history, no small amount of controversy has plagued thrash frontiersmen Napalm Death. The band's lineup has suffered an incredibly high turnover rate, but is now comprised of vocalist Barney Greenway, bassist Shane Embury, guitarists Jesse Pintado and Mitch Harris, as well as drummer Danny Herrara.

Conceived in England in 1982 as a punk band, Napalm quickly transformed from the mould of producer and death metal guru Scott Burns. Their 1989 grindcore debut Harmony Corruption irked many of their early fans, as did their later flirtation with industrial sound on Utopia Banished. Greenway, however, dismisses such complaints. "Essentially, we're a guitar-bass-drums band. It was just a style we were working with at the time. We don't adopt and drop things, it's just a matter of what we chose to do from album to album."

After nearly a decade of pushing metal boundaries, hype surrounding Napalm is still rampant. Their revolving door line-up culminated with the 1996 departure of longtime frontman Greenway. While past members have gone on to be a part of successful groups like Godflesh, Carcass and Scorn, Greenway's stint with Extreme Noise Terror was not as enduring.

"There was a misconception that I joined the band, but it was always to be just for that album," he insists. Still, he openly admits a break was needed. "One of the problems in Napalm at the time that was a big point of contention was what I saw as a lack of democracy," he explains.

Greenway believes the experience was beneficial. "Things tend to slip out of memory quite quickly. I don't like to take anything for granted. Besides everything else, it was fun," he laughs. The vocalist returned to Napalm amidst much rumour and debate in 1997.

The obvious tensions in the band, however, were part of the creative process which spawned their newest album, Inside the Torn Apart. The intensely raw, heavy sound which defined the genre was multiplied by the recent friction.

Even the success of this latest endeavour was overshadowed by conflict when Napalm's video "Breed to Breathe" was banned. While it featured controversial scenes such as a man jumping from a building, Greenway calls the censorship misguided and unnecessary. "It wasn't meant to glorify those things, but to represent the nature of the song, the cycle of hopelessness."

Yet another drama may be lurking on the horizon. Napalm has always been on Earache Records, an independent UK label which was largely recognized as the birthplace of grindcore. Recently, Earache has gravitated toward a new sound called "gabber," which is the unholy marriage of superfast techno and death metal.

The shift has resulted in a typical confrontation for Napalm, fueled by an unauthorized gabber remix of one of their songs. "We really couldn't understand what they were doing, but they've done it and they've suffered for it," Greenway says. "Interest in the label has gone down, as well as the trust aspect for fans." Powerless to rebel against the new image because of contract obligations, they are looking forward to exploring their options upon its completion.

The future of Napalm Death could be as unstable as their past, but the sold out crowd at Call the Office on Thursday was not there for the controversy. An intimate night with a band who have played its share of stadium shows drew rave responses from those in attendance.

For both old school fans and the newly initiated, Napalm Death continue to be a major name in heavy music.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999