Various Artists - Grind Madness At The BBC
Deeply unfunny Radio 1 DJ Steve Wright used to play Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror with the message “I’ll play these if you are naughty”, apparently aghast that anyone would consider such mutated noise as music. By contrast, John Peel had the ear and the wisdom to champion these bands and give them an outlet, dragging them up to Maida Vale and allowing them the opportunity to record and be heard. He gained as much pleasure playing these genre-busting sessions as his avid listeners did in head-banging along to them under the bed-sheets.
George Bernard-Shaw famously once said "If more than ten percent of the population likes a painting, it should be burned - for it must be bad." As Western culture has shifted from "My product is good therefore it will sell" to "My marketing is good therefore I can sell my product", we're increasingly led by focus groups and marketed into sub-divisions in an attempt to understand potential market penetration. If we were to follow Bernard-Shaw's advice, surely the streets would be littered with ever-increasing piles of ashes? Thankfully the real magic is happening in the ten percent that focus group-led decision makers would throw in the bin.
The eight bands featured on this three disc collection of grindcore Peel sessions all sit in the smaller slice of the pie chart. Their brutal and uncompromising approach may have bemused BBC engineers, recording entire sessions of fourteen tracks in under ten minutes for no sooner had record been pressed then it was time to hit the stop button. Their approach to the craft of writing was so different yet revolutionary the ripples from the rock they hurled in the pond can still be felt today, with bands like Invasion who are leading the charge in the UK metal scene and understand the merits of keeping it short and intense.
The 118 tracks on this compilation capture these bands at their rawest, although Napalm Death had actually been around in one form or another since the start of the decade. In giving them a short time in the studio, often with little experience of the recording process, the intensity remains preserved. The tracks here are often superior to their LP relations, so kudos Earache Records for rounding them all up in this fantastic collection.
Picking out any individual track would be futile: the body of work here is outstanding. Those early Napalm Death tracks from 1987 are still as vital today and they were 22 years ago, hurtling by in a screaming and flailing heartbeat of noise, reducing the proto-crust punk of Discharge and Amebix into mere seconds of madness. The growling ferocity and battle cry of Bolt Thrower in 1990 scattered legions of orcs back then, but could still have the same effect today on groups of “yoofs” hanging round outside the 24 hour garage. By the time Carcass came along, the putrid stench of death metal had been added to the sonic soup, upping the ante with OTT references to dismemberment and gore.
The material has aged extremely well. It was so far ahead of its time that its influence and integrity has remained untarnished. If you remember listening to these on their original broadcasts it’s a passionate trip down memory lane. If these bands are new to you, prepare to be amazed by the paradigm shift they undertook. This is an essential piece of underground musical history. Take a step into the ten-percent.