Caligula’s Horse, Megadeth, Napalm Death. Not three acts you would necessarily lump together outside of a Heavy Blog feature series. That must only mean that after looking at the Aussie prog wunderkids and the ginger thrash titans, grind’s foster fathers are getting the artwork investigation treatment. Now, Karlo’s previous posts have gone into a lot more detail than I’m prepared/able to do but if Napalm Death can smash 24 tracks into a 30 minute album, I can fill the Internet with some words about some stellar album art. The grind kings are universally established as pioneers and for over three decades they have tortured passers by with their ever evolving sound. With a combination of filthy dystopian poetry, buzzsaw instruments and prisoner free attitude, the Brommies have given a world they look on with contempt, so much more than music. Let’s have a look.
Never content with the state of worldly affairs, Napalm Death birthed in a grimy, industrial part of the UK and their opinions regarding the state of the union were crystal clear from the beginning. Once you get past the scratchy, comic style art of debut album Scum, each piece of the artwork pops and takes it’s own place on the record sleeve. The death bat wings (fuck off, Avenged Sevenfold) that frame the entire piece loom menacingly over the big business fat cats and their child slaves. Industrial buildings that peppered the UK at the time of Scum‘s release leer on each side, spewing filth into the sky and using manual labour as a tool to keep the working class in check. Now, the mound of skulls… Not even subtle is the calling out of the kind of big corporations who, in most cases, are regarded as ruining the world via globalisation. The familiar arch, the gas guzzling vehicle merchant, even the technology kingpins of the day (you better believe there’d be some fruit missing a chunk if this album had been released today), all make an appearance in piles of human remains. The simple, one world title sits in a harsh yellow colour, just like the infamous angled logo – Scum.
It would be easy to laugh this off today as low hanging fruit. Everybody with a stick and stone to rub together knows what these companies are all about. It starts with an M, rhymes with honey and doesn’t take into consideration the damage done to the world in the process. The reality is, at the time of it’s release, Scum was one of the first records that all out attacked these companies and the suits behind them. “Multinational Corporations”, “Prison Without Walls” and “Siege of Power” don’t need my explanation; this is art designed by the youth of the day with the intention of opening eyes and raising awareness of the plight of where humanity was headed. Fast forward thirty years and a catalogue of ferocious music offerings later and the message is still the same, just more fitting to where we are at as a species.
Last year’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat was a world beater in terms of the band’s continued approach to evolving their sound. I can’t think of another band that has successfully avoided so many trends while shooting down every imitator to their throne; simply by being the best at their trade and always mutating their sound into unique territory. Napalm Death even managed to up the artwork game with my favourite album cover in some time. A world away from the lo-fi, DIY artwork that grind bands love to use, the art gallery layout of the vacuum sealed slab of human offal says just as much as the art of Scum. Clean edges, clear words and just enough of the right kind of nasty colour make this one to admire. The remarkable simplicity of it fits so incredibly well with the message that the band have never ceased to spread. Sure, we might be at the top of the food chain but at what cost? Prepackaged human meat could very well be the future if we keep shitting out children and destroying every resource we have. The UK’s recent horse meat scandal was eye opening for some, others like myself barely batted an eyelid. This is merely the cost of having easily accessibly, cheap and nasty food; the kind that the creators of Soylent Green so gleefully fed to the masses in the movie of the same name. Hell, at 33p a kg, I’d buy this product if it meant I could stay fed but that’s besides the point.
Thirty years and stylistically miles apart, these two albums book end the career of one of the all time great extreme metal bands. Totally different both musically and aesthetically, each record was designed to push forward the message of a young group of men, playing music that will forever be regarded as noise in the eyes of the general public. Once you really listen though, it’s so obvious that they’ve been right this whole time. Who’s to say they haven’t been prophetic? Lord Greenway, what have you not been telling us?