In the preface to his interview with Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway in Issue #89, J. Bennett wrote that “[t]here are few bands you can rely upon to deliver the fucking goods on their 14th album. Or to even make it that far in the first place. The number of grind outfits that have accomplished this herculean task is exactly one: Napalm Death.”
To celebrate this achievement, next week’s release of Utilitarian and the first entry in our new “Decibrity Playlist” series, we asked longtime Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury to a pick a non-ND record that related in some way to each of the fourteen full-length ND records (including a covers album) that he’s played on over the last 24+ years. Given the wide parameters—where his head was at musically, something that he remembers being really into at the time or that just represents any given period to him—we think you’ll find some of his selections quite surprising.
To help you love the smell of Napalm on this Thursday morning, we’ve compiled Shane’s picks into a convenient little Spotify playlist.
From Enslavement To Obliteration (1988)
At this point, I suppose Horrified by Repulsion—or The Stench Of Burning Death demo as it was known back then—was a major influence on me, along with Siege and S.O.B. A couple of the tracks I wrote for this album had already appeared on our first John Peel radio session in 1987 and were originally written in late 1986 when Nic Bullen first asked me join Napalm Death. The emphasis was on blasting riffs with chunky breakdowns, but without fucking around—hence the shortness of the songs.
Harmony Corruption (1990)
After the Mentally Murdered mini-album came out, I think as a band we were bringing in a lot more death metal influences, although at this point I must add that we were all into many varied forms of music due to the legend that was Radio 1 DJ John Peel. By the time we did Harmony, I was very much listening to Death from Florida and a lot of Floridian death metal, as was Mick Harris. I guess the album of choice would have been Scream Bloody Gore. Of course we traveled to Florida to record Harmony and hung out with all the bands we loved. What a great time!
Utopia Banished (1992)
This was a tough one really, as Mick had left and we had so many songs that carried on the death metal feel from Harmony, but much faster and to the point again than that album. This is going to sound weird, but we were listening to a lot of Rush albums then, especially Moving Pictures. We loved the live feel of the drum sound and how the album was driven a lot by that drum tone. It all tied in since it was [drummer] Danny Herrera’s first recording with us. Besides the music, which really was a more frantic, hybrid continuation of From Enslavement to Obliteration and Harmony Corruption, I think that was an influence.
Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)
This was the start of a transitional period for us. A lot of what Helmet was doing with their great slow and repetitive hooks was rubbing off on me, so we started incorporating that into our sound. Strap It On was a particular favorite of mine, and I think they were influential to a lot of the bands in our scene at the time as well.
Musically, lots of stuff was going through my head at this point. Mitch Harris and I were becoming a little obsessed with drumbeats of a lot of the indie rock noise variety. They were very exciting to us—as exciting as the blast beat. For me, Diatribes‘s production was too clean in hindsight. But I had been listening heavily to Sonic Youth for years, with Sister being a particular favorite of mine. We were starting to really bring a lot of influences in from bands that we had been listening to since the early 90s and felt that we were finally ready to start experimenting and recording slow, atmospheric songs in the vein of early Swans.
Inside the Torn Apart (1997)
What can I say—this album was a strange one as we parted company with Barney briefly for the writing process, but he later rejoined in time to record the vocals. This record was musically a continuation from Diatribes as a lot of it is very mid-paced with only a few blasting songs. I think what we did on this record and on Diatribes was to add guitar lines to make the riffs weirder and not just as straight up as we’d done a couple of years earlier. Regardless of whether people agree or not, this stuff was exciting to us. Soundgarden was a band I’d loved for years, especially how they had subtle guitar lines in the background to their riffs, so we tried to incorporate that into our normal riffing style alongside jazzy-type rock beats. Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction were two other bands that also really excited us with their drum rhythms.
Words From The Exit Wound (1998)
This was the album where we as a band started to fire ourselves up a little bit more. I had been hanging out with a friend of mine, Nick Barker, who was staying in Birmingham where his band Cradle of Filth was recording an album. We’d play a lot of the older, classic records back at my house. We were cranking bands like Discharge and Master at three in the morning, not to mention Nick would play older Napalm albums. We’d already begun the writing process for a new album, but I remember waking up one afternoon and recording the riffs to “The Infiltraitor”, which I know for sure came from us downing some beers the night before and rocking out to Discharge. I guess I was starting to come full circle in some ways.
**Stay tuned for the second half of Shane’s playlist next week. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Utilitarian when it hits shelves on Tuesday or order it here!
**Photo: Axel Jusseit