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Grindcore: The 10 Greatest Releases of the 1980’s!

Let the grinding begin.....

Grindcore, probably the most unpalatable sub-genre in heavy metal, had to start somewhere and while scene legends Napalm Death, Brutal Truth, Nasum, Pig Destroyer etc may have gained grindcore its notoriety over the years, it’s the roots of grindcore and those original pioneering albums that defined the genre that are primarily under examination here!

Siege – Drop Dead (1984) [USA]

The building blocks of grindcore can be found on Siege’s one and only release and it would be criminal to ignore their monumental influence on a genre that, in 1984, was still to be named. Somehow predicting the grindcore and death metal craze which would engulf the globe later in the decade, Siege were beyond influential and, typically, universally ignored.

Crust punk / d-beat nastiness this raw and this dirty wasn’t unheard of – Discharge’s seminal Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing released 2 years prior had hinted at the aural assault to come – but Siege were next level noise and it proved too much for many. Napalm Death’s youthful members were blatantly paying attention though and they patiently waited in the wings, preparing themselves to take Siege’s sound forward as the decade progressed.

The power and violence displayed on Drop Dead was, and still is, utterly mesmerising and anyone with even a passing interest in grindcore and its origins should consider Drop Dead utterly essential!

Lärm – Straight on View (1986) [Netherlands]

Home to thirty six songs of raging hardcore / grindcore, Lärm‘s debut full length was tuneless, antagonistic and politically charged….which is exactly what you’d expect from such glorious noise as this!

With a straight edge philosophy and a relatively lighthearted approach to their sonic onslaught, Lärm‘s overall charm was their gung-ho approach to playing loud and fast. Very fuckin’ fast. Attacking their instruments with an unparalleled intensity, Straight On View sped by in a blitzkrieg of spit, bile and snarling, thrashing rage and its intensity has not diminished in the intervening years.

While not 100% grindcore per se, Straight On View was definitely 100% instrumental in helping grindcore become a dominant force as the 80’s drew on!

Napalm Death – Scum (1987) [UK]

Napalm Death – Scum (CD) - Discogs

We experienced Napalm Death‘s Scum way after its initial release. Don’t blame us, we were born too late. However, just trying to imagine the reaction to first hearing this beast back in 1987 conjures images of abstract terror and confusion.

Scum wasn’t metal. It was something else entirely. It made thrash sound like a kids nursery rhyme and brazenly took a piss in the mouth of what was considered ‘heavy’ metal at the time. Raw and rancorous, Scum was the sound of urban squalor and despair and, in 1987, was the absolute antithesis of the comparatively trite shite being peddled by Mötley Crüe (Girls, Girls, Girls), Def Leppard (Hysteria) and Kiss (Crazy Nights) etc.

Despite having a budget of thruppence, Napalm Death conveyed all they needed to convey in just 28 furiously political tracks shoehorned into a mere 33 caustic minutes. In that short time Napalm Death set the bar for what extremity could achieve.

The first true grindcore album had arrvied!

Sore Throat – Death To Capitalist Hardcore [EP] (1987) [UK]

Admittedly, Death To Capitalist Hardcore is an EP not an album but its 45 tracks of one minute blasts of raw noise was a major influence on grindcore and warrants inclusion here.

Track 2, “Utterly Tuneless”, pretty much sums up the blastbeat chaos and growling and while the guitar tone is satisfyingly thick throughout, it’s the utterly inept drumming that lives up to the tuneless moniker. Grindcore’s penchant for songs of one minute, or less, began with Napalm Death but to construct a whole album round these micro-blasts is all the fault of Sore Throat!

Absolute noise designed to piss off absolutely everybody, Death To Capitalist Hardcore is a whirlwind of humming, droning feedback and guttural barks and its minimalist approach and couldn’t-give-a-toss attitude was revolutionary. Modern grindcore gods Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Rotten Sound were sure as hell soaking it up, that’s for damn sure!

Carcass –  Reek of Putrefaction (1988) [UK]

Carcass - Reek Of Putrefaction | Releases | Discogs

From Napalm Death to Carcass; could Bill Steer be the one musician who made the most important contribution to grindcore and UK extreme metal in the late 80’s? Arguably so, as it was his lead guitar work on Reek Of Putrefaction and From Enslavement To Obliteration that enabled grindcore to take massive strides forward, with his pioneering work heavily influencing the hordes of grindcore and death metal bands that followed.

With the filthiest sound ever recorded accompanying some of the most grotesque lyrics ever uttered, Reek Of Putrefaction is a grindcore classic. Generally frightening, Carcass were not fucking around on their ferocious debut and this is a band far removed from the melodic death metal titans they would become.

Reek Of Putrefaction is no where near the complete grindcore album, with its incomprehensibly muddied production stifling the bands obvious talents, but it is a vitally important stepping stone in grindcore’s evolution.

Also Essential: Symphonies Of Sickness (1989)

Napalm Death – From Enslavement To Obliteration (1988) [UK]

Napalm Death – From Enslavement To Obliteration (1990, Vinyl) - Discogs

Before they added death metal to their sonic onslaught, Napalm Death recorded the pinnacle of UK grindcore in From Enslavement To Obliteration. The sound of urban squalor terrifyingly committed to tape, Napalm Death’s Scum may have been more influential but From Enslavement To Obliteration is the superior album and the culmination of Napalm Death’s fearless experimentation in their early years.

Embracing distortion in all its guises, From Enslavement To Obliteration‘s 27 tracks (including The Curse EP) proved to be a turning point in grindcore and set the standard for countless bands who were inspired to follow in Napalm Death’s bloodied footsteps.

Napalm Death would splinter after this groundbreaking release; vocalist Lee Dorrian embracing doom metal with Cathedral and guitarist Bill Steer concentrating on Carcass, distancing himself from Napalm Death’s political agenda and adding gallons of gore to his grind in the process. But, it’s on From Enslavement To Obliteration that these icons of extreme metal made their greatest mark. Indispensable.

Also Essential: Mentally Murdered [EP] (1989)

O.L.D – Old Lady Drivers (1988) [USA]

Intentional parody or not, O.L.D‘s self titled debut was as hilarious as it was convincing….with Old Lady Drivers proving to be a monumental moment in grindcore’s startling evolution.

Smeared in shit and as fast as all hell, this dirty little bastard of an album was the product of 3 kids simply trying to out ‘grind’ their peers and, in that sense, Old Lady Drivers was a roaring (or should that be howling, shrieking, growling) success!

Deranged and unhinged, Old Lady Drivers‘ 15 tracks were scattershot and satirical and yet managed to foreshadow the state of grind to come (the likes of Pig Destroyer were blatantly listening to this hyper-blast wall of, occasionally progressive, sound) and, jokey lyrics aside, one listen to the likes of “Wisdom Lost” confirms that O.L.D were talented musicians with plenty to give to the sub-genre.

Hindsight has gifted us one thing….O.L.D were no joke!

Extreme Noise Terror – A Holocaust In Your Head (1989) [UK]

Extreme Noise Terror – A Holocaust In Your Head (2016, Red, Vinyl) - Discogs

Has a band or album ever been more appropriately titled?

Extreme Noise Terror’s remorseless debut, A Holocaust In Your Head, was a key release in the history of grindcore and British extreme metal and its speed-punk riffs and dirty as fuck production still packs the heftiest of punches.

The neanderthal aggression and sheer aural battery on A Holocaust In Your Head was amplified by Extreme Noise Terror’s two distinct voices; Dean Jones and Phil Vane.

Savagely trading blows, the two vocalists pummelled the senses with unintelligible growls, shrieks and barks as the remainder of the band unleashed short bursts of anarcho-punk nihilism.

Also Essential: Peel Sessions (1987)

Repulsion – Horrified (Recorded 1986 / Released 1989) [USA]

Horrified is the big daddy of grindcore and the fact that Repulsion were virtually ignored, and saw their one and only album released years after they split, doesn’t mean shit; Horrified is grindcore and grindcore is Repulsion.

With Horrified, Repulsion gorily blended a festering mix of hardcore punk, metallic might and distorted riffs to create a beast barely recognisable as music. In the process, they fashioned an album still revered as a defining moment in the genre and at the very core of grind’s humble beginnings.

The production may be atrocious but tracks such as “Eaten Alive”, “Horrified” and “Black Breath” deliver carnage and cruelty with every shredding note; grindcore and death metal may not exist if it weren’t for this underground milestone in extremity.

Terrorizer – World Downfall (1989) [USA]

Terrorizer – World Downfall (2013, Red Strategic Warhead , Vinyl) - Discogs

The consummate engineering work of Scott Burns enabled Terrorizer to be the first grindcore band whose inhuman blast-beats, punishingly thrashy riffs, thumping bass and demonic growls were truly heard.

Check out the grinding grooves of “Dead Shall Rise” as a prime example of how sonically devastating grindcore can sound when given room to breathe.

Featuring the considerable talents of Oscar Garcia (Nausea), Jesse Pintado (Napalm Death), David Vincent (Morbid Angel) and Pete Sandoval (Morbid Angel), this extreme metal supergroup may have been short-lived but their influence on the scene remains incalculable.

Honourable mentions: Agathocles – If This Is Gore, What’s Meat Then? [Demo] (1988) / Blood – Impulse To Destroy (1989) / S.O.B – Don’t Be Swindle (1987) / Spazztic Blur – Before… and After (1988) / Unseen Terror – Human Error (1987)

About Chris Jennings (1985 Articles)
I love metal. Always have. Always will. As editor of Worship Metal - a site dedicated to being as positive about metal and its myriad of sub-genres as possible - my aim is to 'worship' metal through honest reviews, current news and a wide variety of features; offering the same exposure to underground bands as we do to mainstream/well known acts. Our mantra; the bands are partners and we exist to serve the bands \m/

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