Napalm Death are an English grindcore band. They formed in the village of Meriden near Birmingham, England in 1982 by Nicholas Bullen and Miles Ratledge.
* Mark “Barney” Greenway – Vocals (1989–1996, 1997–present)
* Shane Embury – Bass (1987–present)
* Mitch Harris – Guitar / Additional Vocals (1990–present)
* Danny Herrera – Drums (1991–present)
* Nik Napalm (Nicholas Bullen) – (1981–1986)
* Marian Williams – (1984)
* Lee Dorrian – (1987–1989)
* Phil Vane – (1996–1997)
* Si O (Simon Oppenheimer) – (1981-1982)
* Daz F (Daryl ‘Sid’ Fideski) – (1982)
* Grayhard (Graham “Robbo” Robertson) – (1983–1985)
* Damien Errington – (1985)
* Justin Broadrick – (1985–1986)
* Frank Healy – (1987)
* Bill Steer – (1987–1989)
* Jesse Pintado – (1989–2004) (Died August 27, 2006 due to liver failure)
* Grayhard (Graham “Robbo” Robertson) – (1982)
* Fin (Finbar Quinn) – (1983–1984)
* P-Nut (Peter Shaw) – (1985)
* Nik Napalm (Nicholas Bullen) – (1981, 1985–1986)
* James (Jim) Whiteley – (1986–1987)
* Rat (Miles Ratledge) – (1981–1985)
* Mick Harris – (1985–1991)
Although other groups had previously played fast and aggressive music with a similar style, Napalm Death are credited with defining the grindcore genre through their blend of post-punk, hardcore punk and metal musical structures, aggressive playing, fast tempos, and deep guttural vocals. The group coined the term ‘Grind’ to describe the music they played with particular reference to the sound of American post-punk group Swans.
The group were included in the Guinness Book of World Records as writers of the shortest song (“You Suffer” from their first album Scum). Napalm Death are also listed by Nielsen Soundscan as the seventh best-selling death metal (sic) band in the United States.
Napalm Death were formed in the village of Meriden near Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, in December 1981 by Nic Bullen and Miles Ratledge while the duo were still in their early teenage years. The duo had been playing in amateur bands since 1980 as an extension of their fanzine writing, and went through many names (including “Civil Defence”, “The Mess”, “Evasion” and “Undead Hatred”) before choosing Napalm Death at the end of 1981.
The original line-up of the group consisted of Nicholas Bullen on vocals and bass, Simon Oppenheimer on guitar, and Miles Ratledge on drums, and lasted from December 1981 to January 1982. Graham Robertson joined on bass in January 1982.
The band were initially inspired by the early wave of punk bands, particularly the Anarcho-punk movement (a sub-genre of punk music focused on anarchist politics) and groups within that genre such as Crass, Flux of Pink Indians, Rudimentary Peni, The Apostles, The Rondos and The Ex.
The group played their first concert on July 25 1982 at Atherstone Miners Club, Warwickshire (with Bible of Sins, Corrupt Youth, Hiroshima and Society’s Victims).
Simon Oppenheimer left the group in August 1982 and was replaced by Darryl Fedeski. Darryl left the group in October 1982: at this point, Graham Robertson began to play guitar and Finbarr Quinn (ex- Curfew) joined on bass and backing vocals.
The group played concerts throughout 1982 and 1983 (sharing billing with Anarcho-punk groups such as Amebix, The Apostles and Antisect), and made 4 demo recordings in 1982 and 1983, one of which contributed their first released recording to the Bullshit Detector Volume 3 compilation released by Crass Records in 1984.
The band entered a period of hiatus from the end of 1983 onwards, playing only one concert in 1984 (a benefit for striking mine workers) with additional vocalist Marian Williams (ex-Relevant POS, and sister of the drummer of the group Human Cabbages from Coventry, UK). During this period, Nic Bullen met Justin Broadrick, a guitarist from Birmingham with whom he shared an interest in the music of bands such as Killing Joke, Throbbing Gristle, Crass, Amebix, Swans, and the developing Power Electronics scene. Bullen joined Broadrick’s Final project for a period in 1983.
In July 1985, Napalm Death briefly reformed in order to appear on at a concert at the Mermaid in Birmingham which was also notable as the last concert by Final. The group consisted of a 4-piece line-up of Miles Ratledge – drums, Bullen – vocals, bass and guitar, Graham Robertson – guitar and bass, and Damien Errington – guitar.
After this concert, Miles Ratledge and Bullen asked Broadrick to join Napalm Death as guitarist, with Bullen as vocalist and bassplayer. The band began to develop a musical style which blended elements of Post-punk (particularly Killing Joke and Amebix), heavy Punk in the vein of Discharge, and Thrash metal (with particular reference to Possessed and Celtic Frost).
The group played their first concert as a trio on 31 August 1985 (playing 2 concerts on the same day: Telford with Chumbawamba and Blyth Power, and Birmingham with We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It), and began to play regularly in the Birmingham area (particularly at The Mermaid public house in the Sparkhill area of Birmingham) with a wide range of musicians including Icons of Filth, Concrete Sox, The Varukers, Decadence Within, and The Groundhogs.
In September 1985, Peter Shaw (ex-Autism) joined on bass. The 4-piece line-up recorded Hatred Surge (the band’s 5th demo recording) on 23 October 1985 which the band made available at their concerts and by mail.
Following the recording of the demo, Bullen and Broadrick wished to extend their exploration of a more extreme musical style which created a split in the group with Ratledge: as a result, the group splintered and Mick Harris(a local fan) was asked to join as drummer in December 1985.
The trio – Bullen on vocals and bass, Broadrick on guitar and Harris on drums – made their first performance on 15 December 1985 and went on to play many concerts in 1986, predominantly in the Birmingham area, with musicians such as Amebix, Antisect, Chaos UK, Varukers, Disorder and Dirge.
The group recorded the From Enslavement to Obliteration 6th demo recording on 15 March 1986 which the group made available at their concerts and through mail, before recording a demo tape provisionally intended to form part of a split LP with the English hardcore thrash band Atavistic on Manic Ears records: this recording later became the first side of the band’s debut album Scum in 1987.
Fake cover for the Hatred Surge demo recording from 1985. From left-right: Justin Broadrick, Nicholas Bullen, Mick Harris
The band then faced a number of line-up changes. Nic Bullen was becoming frustrated with the musical direction of the group, and began to lose interest as a whole: as a result, Jim Whiteley was asked to join as bass player. The band played a number of concerts as a four-piece before Justin Broadrick left the group to play the drums for local band Head of David. The group attempted to find a new guitarist by asking Shane Embury (ex-Unseen Terror and a fan of the group) to join and giving a trial period to Frank Healy (ex-Annihilator, later of Cerebral Fix and Sacrilege). After Broadrick’s departure, Nic Bullen’s dissatisfaction with the musical direction of the group led him to leave the group in December 1986 (in order to focus on his studies in English Literature and Philosophy at university).
With the departure of Broadrick and Bullen, the band had to look for new members. Guitarist Bill Steer played in a band based in Liverpool, called Carcass and given the affinity between the bands, he joined Napalm Death while still playing an active role in Carcass. The band asked a friend (Lee Dorrian) to join as vocalist due to his good relationship with the band (he had organised a number of concerts for the band), even though he had never been in a band before. This line-up recorded the B side of the Scum LP at Rich Bitch studios in May 1987, and the album was released through Earache Records.
The band promptly lost another member just before they undertook a short tour after the release of Scum : Jim Whiteley left the group (to join Ripcord) and Shane Embury (former drummer of Unseen Terror) joined on bass. The band then appeared on two compilation records (‘North Atlantic Noise Attack’ and the ‘Pathological Compilation’), recorded two Peel sessions and a Split 7″ with Japanese grinders S.O.B.. They also returned to Rich Bitch studio once more and recorded their second album: From Enslavement to Obliteration.
A follow-up release to “Enslavement..” came in the form of the six song 12″ EP “Mentally Murdered”, which was to be the last recording with the Harris/Steer/Dorian/Embury line-up. This EP was recorded at the Slaughterhouse Studios and took on a slightly different sound, blending Grindcore with Death metal. Following the release, Napalm Death were featured on national television in the United Kingdom in a Heavy Metal special by Arena (BBC 2).
The band continued to tour, but as soon as they came back home from Japan, in July 1989, Steer and Dorrian left the band: Steer decided to dedicate himself full-time to Carcass, while Dorrian formed the Doom metal group Cathedral. The group recruited Jesse Pintado (ex-Terrorizer) on guitar and Mark “Barney” Greenway (ex-Benediction) as vocalist. This line-up took part in the Grindcrusher tour organised by Earache Records and featuring fellow label-mates Carcass, Bolt Thrower and Morbid Angel. The group recruited Mitch Harris (ex-Righteous Pigs) as second guitarist after the tour.
In Florida, they started working on their next album, Harmony Corruption. While writing Harmony Corruption they changed their style a little, from grindcore, to a mix of blast beats and some slower, more rhythmic parts. In addition, death metal was a major influence on Harmony Corruption, more so than their previous records. After releasing the new record, they went on touring around the world and from the material filmed at those concerts they released a home-video, Live Corruption.
The band caught considerable flack from longtime fans in respect to the “Death Metal” sound and production of Harmony Corruption. Smarting from the accusations of sell-out by the British underground “elites”, Napalm entered Eddie Van Dale’s Violent Noise Experience Club in March of ’91 to record six new tracks. These new songs, the “Mass Appeal Madness” 12″ LP, had a much more raw grind quality to them, finding instant favour with fans. This recording, along with the Mentally Murdered 12″, the spit 7″ with S.O.B. and live tracks from Live Corruption, found a home on the “Death by Manipulation” CD.
Drummer Mick Harris eventually left Napalm Death because of conflicts regarding their musical style. Danny Herrera, a close friend to Jesse Pintado, was brought in to replace Mick. The addition of Herrera would be the last major line-up change of the band, save for Jesse Pintado’s future absence, which has yet to be filled (and vocalist Phil Vane never recorded with the band). Napalm Death released a new record, Utopia Banished. Now working with producer Colin Richardson. This release was a kind of “return to the roots” – grindcore. After recording The World Keeps Turning EP, the band toured Europe with Dismember and Obituary on the “Campaign for Musical Destruction” tour. They then toured the US with Sepultura, Sacred Reich and Sick Of It All. The proceeds of Napalm Death’s 1993 EP Nazi Punks f*** Off were donated to anti-fascist organisations.
The band remixed the track “Mind Of A Razor” by London based hip hop crew Gunshot. The remixed version of the track appeared on the EP of the same name in 1992. Thereafter, they went to the studio and recorded Fear, Emptiness, Despair. Although it was still as heavy and aggressive as ever, the new record took a different direction and sounded more experimental; they added more rhythmic riffs, an industrial-like structure, and then added grindcore blast beats. Live concerts with Entombed, Obituary and Machine Head showed the audience how violent and aggressive the new Napalm Death sound was. They continued with the experimentation through the rest of the 1990s.
The Greed Killing EP was the next release from the band, through Earache. After the preview with the EP, Diatribes, a full-length album was released. Although things seemed to be going smoothly from outside, they were going through problems. Misunderstanding rose between the members and singer Greenway was expelled from the band in late/mid 1996. Greenway went to record with Extreme Noise Terror (the ENT release Damage 381 features Barney on lead vocals) and ENT’s main singer Phil Vane went to fill vocals slot in Napalm Death. Things did not go as well as they were supposed to, and Vane was kicked out of the band just before they got into the studio to record the new album. And so Greenway returned to Napalm Death.
The next albums Inside the Torn Apart and Words from the Exit Wound continued with the experimentation but displayed more signs of grindcore, notably faster tempos than the last two albums. This return was completed with the release of Enemy of the Music Business. It shows their anger with the music industry and especially with Earache. Order of the Leech continued where their previous album ended and can be seen as even more faster and aggressive.
In 2004, they recorded a covers album called Leaders Not Followers: Part 2, the sequel to their earlier covers EP. It contains covers of old hardcore punk and heavy metal bands, including Cryptic Slaughter, Massacre, Kreator, Sepultura, Siege and Discharge. Due to personal problems, Jesse Pintado did not play on either Order of the Leech or Leaders Not Followers: Part 2, and left the band in early 2004. Nevertheless Pintado stated that he left because he grew tired of Napalm Death and wanted to start something new. The two guitars that you hear is Mitch over-dubbing.
In April 2005, their next album The Code Is Red…Long Live the Code was released. It features guest appearances from Jeffrey Walker (formerly of Carcass), Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed vocalist) and Jello Biafra (formerly of Dead Kennedys, and Lard among many other bands). The album continues the band’s progressive approach to their brutal brand of extreme metal, with their trademark grindcore sound retained.
Napalm Death finished recording their latest album titled Smear Campaign in June 2006; released on September 15, 2006 to very strong reviews from fans and critics alike. The main lyrical focus is criticism of the United States Government and other governments who are strongly religious. The album features a guest appearance by Anneke van Giersbergen, vocalist for the Dutch rock band The Gathering. There is a limited edition digipak version of Smear Campaign, which has two new songs, “Call That an Option?” and “Atheist Runt”.
In early 2006 Napalm Death headlined a tour with Kreator, A Perfect Murder, and Undying. On August 27, 2006, Jesse Pintado died in a hospital in the Netherlands due to liver failure, prompting Mitch Harris to express his sadness at the loss of someone he thought of as “a brother” on the band’s official website. After the Smear Campaign tour, the band did a 2007 “World Domination Tour”. Bassist Shane Embury is currently working on a project with Mick Kenney of Anaal Nathrakh, their work together will be released on Feto Records at the end of 2007.
Napalm Death is currently scheduled for a winter-spring 2008 tour as main support for Devildriver. Also appearing on the tour will be Straight Line Stitch, 36 Crazyfists, and Invitro. In July 2008, Blabbermouth.net has confirmed that Napalm Death are currently in the studio working on the follow up to the 2006 album Smear Campaign.
In November 2008, Napalm Death’s fourteenth studio album, entitled Time Waits For No Slave, leaked onto the internet.
* Scum (1987)
* From Enslavement to Obliteration (1988)
* The Peel Sessions (1989)
* Suffer The Children (1989)
* Harmony Corruption (1990)
* Death By Manipulation (1992)
* Utopia Banished (1992)
* Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)
* Diatribes (1996)
* Inside the Torn Apart (1997)
* Words from the Exit Wound (1998)
* The Complete Radio One Sessions (2000)
* Enemy of the Music Business (2000)
* Order of the Leech (2002)
* Noise For Music’s Sake (2003)
* Leaders Not Followers: Part 2 (2004)
* The Code Is Red…Long Live the Code (2005)
* Smear Campaign (2006)
* Time Waits For No Slave (2009)
Members of Napalm Death have moved on to form bands such as Carcass, Godflesh, Cathedral, Scorn, Jesu and Black Galaxy.
Additionally, band members have formed numerous side projects, including Lull, Painkiller, Brujeria, Lock Up, Meathook Seed, Defecation, Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine and Venomous Concept.
Special thanks to Keith Law for content.