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Review of the Album Scum by British Death Metal Band Napalm Death

Updated on May 31, 2021
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Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

How is the Album Scum Different From Later Albums by England's Napalm Death?

Every heavy metal band has a beginning and some bands might have an unusual method of starting their careers. This is the case with British death metal band Napalm Death. Their 1987 debut album called Scum is a rather odd album given the fact that there are 28 tracks and some of them are not even a minute long!

The Album Cover for the Album Scum (Back Cover)


Disadvantage #1 for the Album Scum is the Bad Vocals

The band’s songs tend to be fast, short, and aggressive but this debut album is really odd from that perspective. This debut is an album that has really harsh shouting that is not even understandable by me so that would result in this debut getting a lower score right away because of that factor. The vocals are so fast that the songs end without the average listener being able to understand them.

What is the Band Lineup for the Album Scum? A Brief Mention

The lineup is also very different because the lineup for this album is not even the one that most fans have been used to seeing. There is no Mark “Barney” Greenway, Shane Embury, or Mitch Harris on this album. The vocalist for the first 12 tracks is Nicholas Bullen. However for the tracks 13 through 28, the vocalist for those tracks is Lee Dorian, formerly of the band Cathedral. Bill Steer (Carcass) plays the guitars for these 16 tracks.

What is the Musical Style for the Album Scum?

The album Scum has a punk and hardcore death metal feel to it with the production being drowned out by the guitar work. Playing the drums on this album is Mick Harris. I can hear a sort of snake like growl or screech on this album similar to what Chris Barnes would use with the band Cannibal Corpse. The vocals are so bad that they sound like someone who has had too much to drink and they are just so hoarse.

The Album Scum Is a Sort of Acquired Taste for Fans of This Genre

Is this album as bad as Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill? Probably not but this album doesn’t really show how good the band Napalm Death could be. This is just their first album and they would obviously improve greatly as time went on especially by 1992 when they released Utopia Banished. Note: my views on the album mentioned in the previous sentence have changed as of 2020 and the album Scum is also an album that has that feedback sound in it but that doesn’t really detract from the music as much as the vocals might. The fast drumming that would become part of the band’s signature sound just can pummel a person’s eardrums for sure but this is Napalm Death, one of the best grindcore bands ever. This article isn’t meant to compare Napalm Death to Pantera but it shows that most heavy metal bands can have a sort of down period musically but for Napalm Death, their lowest point while annoying because of the vocals isn’t as bad as some bands because the riffing is still respectable and the drumming style shows that they stuck to the grindcore style while fusing it with a sort of punk metal feel. The other factor is that back in 1987 the heavy metal world was different than what it is today. The riffing on the song C.S. are pretty creative to go along with the drumming. So there were traces of creative excellence on this album and these guys would really get even better starting in 1990. Scum was just a musical warm-up for the UK’s best grindcore band.

What Are Some of the Lyrical Themes of the Album Scum?

Multinational Corporations the first track is a minute of shouting out that multinational corporations really don’t care about people. Napalm Death lyrically did have political themes in their songs which would become more noticeable as their career progressed. Instinct of Survival is a song that continues on this theme as companies want the consumer to keep on buying their products and to stay in debt until they die.

"Siege of Power"

The Review of the Album Scum (Continued)

The album is lyrically trying to point out that corporations do not care if people die because of air pollution as long as profits are made in the song called Polluted Minds.

But once again, the bad vocals and the shout at the end really put into question what this band was thinking when they wrote this album. By the time we get to the song Siege of Power this one is a decent death metal song and the vocals are a little like Max Cavalera. Control is a short, fast decent song about a person that is being controlled by their mind and it is almost like a dictator is controlling their mind. Scum is just the album title but the album is not garbage that should be ignored however this is a much different kind of album by Napalm Death that requires a sort of acquired taste. You will either love this album or you will hate it. After two full listens of this punk style album it is a decent listen even if it is not a stellar album.

Final Thoughts About the Album Scum

I myself think that this album Scum is a decent punk and death metal album however it is the worst album from Napalm Death that I have heard even if the lyrical themes are important for us to try and take in. many of the tracks are so short that we are getting just a snapshot or an introduction to this English band. It was in 2005 that the album Scum was voted to be the 50th best British metal album by readers of the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! It is not even close to being that good, but readers will have their own views. The album gets no higher than 70 out of 100 points at best.


© 2018 Ara Vahanian


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