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Review of the Album From Enslavement to Obliteration by British Death Metal Band Napalm Death

Updated on November 22, 2023
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Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

What is the Meaning Behind the Album's Title? My Best Educated Guess

From Enslavement to Obliteration is the second studio album by British death metal band Napalm Death and it was released in 1988 just one year after their debut album called Scum. The album’s title when I analyze it is referring to the fact that in Western countries, some people become wage slaves and stuck in this system of free market capitalism until their hard work does not pay off but instead it makes them sicker than before. Their body eventually breaks down and they become obliterated by the pressures of modern life.

Lee Dorrian, Former Vocalist of the Band Napalm Death

Vocalist Lee Dorrian is seen here on stage at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 2009 in Germany. He would sing for the doom metal band Cathedral for many years.
Vocalist Lee Dorrian is seen here on stage at the Wacken Open Air Festival in 2009 in Germany. He would sing for the doom metal band Cathedral for many years. | Source

The Similarities Between This Album and the 1987 Album Called Scum

The album sees the return of guitarist Bill Steer and drummer Mick Harris. This album is also the debut of bassist Shane Embury and he has been with this band ever since that time. For this album, Lee Dorian does the vocals for all the songs instead of splitting duties with Nicholas Bullen. The album still has lots of tracks (22) and it is even shorter than the band’s debut clocking in at just over 29 minutes so once again, this album is kind of like getting a short sneak preview of this band.

Evolved as One is a Song That Set a Sort of Lyrical Precedent for This Band

The vocals consist of guttural shouts, that famous snake like voice, and there is a harsh vocal style in the first song called Evolved as One. The song is trying to send the message that even though human beings evolved through the centuries, many of them have been exploited by those that seek to profit from them through unfair business and labor practices. Those with weak minds have the greatest chance of being exploited. The song which is the title track of this album discusses the concept of how it was like when men were slaves and they were forced to work in the very factories that man had built. Prosperity was given the main importance over the lives of slaves or human beings in general. Napalm Death has set this sort of lyrical precedent where they have tended to focus on lyrics about important social and political issues. In this first song, this is how the vocals should have been for the entire album.

2 Major Flaws to This Album

However, as with the debut album, the vocals are too drowned out and difficult to understand and the album relies too much on grindcore death metal style drumming and speed which is used here to the excess.

How is the Rest of the Album?

It’s a M.A.N.S. World is a short 54 second song if you want to even call it that and it about the fact that women are forced to be subservient to men and male dominance. They are not supposed to challenge masculinity or they will face consequences. But once again as was the case with their first album, the vocals are a total mess as they are of raspy growls or guttural vocals which are not understandable. By the time we get to song #6 which is called Unchallenged Hate, the riffing is very similar to the album Leprosy by American death metal band Death and I can give you a clue as to the song it is similar to. It is actually the song called Born Dead. Why did this band Napalm Death write such short songs with such bad vocals in the beginning of their career? They just wanted to make albums quickly in those days but it is obviously a rushed effort and it shows in the music itself. Display to Me is a standard death metal type of song that doesn’t really have those grinding riffs until a little later in the song. Unfortunately, this second album suffers from the same musical problem as the first album did and this is that the vocals are so bad that it makes it very hard to interpret what the songs are about. Then, the structure of the songs is pretty much the same fast, chugging riffs followed by the same type of fast drumming. This band tries too much to sound like Chris Barnes in many instances.

Final Thoughts About This Second Album Enslavement to Obliteration

How does this album end? The song called "Sometimes" musically sounds like a song that we would hear on 1992’s album Utopia Banished as the vocals fade out with a big growl. Lee Dorian can growl but he certainly can’t sing well on this album. Make Way is the last song on this album which has the worst vocals I’ve ever heard even for a death metal band. Lyrically, the song addresses the concept of profit over people as companies can get too greedy and cause the environment to get polluted. Overall, the album Enslavement to Obliteration has decent riffs but because the vocals are so terrible, this album is also not an elite death metal release but it is still okay.

The Bottom Line About This 2nd Napalm Death Album Many Years Later

Looking back at From Enslavement to Obliteration 32 years later, how does it sound? In some ways, some of the vocal parts could definitely improve. Bassist Shane Embury who is the band’s longest serving member commented on the album to Kerrang! Magazine. He said that it was a good experience but that it was also a brief one. In those days, albums were recorded very quickly. That kind of reasoning makes sense and even I notice how quickly metal bands were able to put out material in the 1980s and this just doesn’t apply only to Napalm Death but to other bands as well. The approach musically for Napalm Death in this album was to create the rawest sound while having it be as fast as possible even if it meant that songs were going to be really short. But for the time in which this album was written, I consider it a sort of warm-up for this band because they would get even better with their other albums after this one, even Harmony Corruption. 32 years later in 2020, the album From Enslavement to Obliteration is an album that has its flaws but the riffs are heavy and kind of match that time period.

© 2018 Ara Vahanian


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