Before they were untouchable grindcore gods, Napalm Death played to a packed 1988 house party. Check out the video footage, and find out why this was a pivotal moment for the band.
Two years before Napalm Death released their 1990 album Harmony Corruption, they performed at a house party for a group of long-haired headbangers.
The video showcases exactly what made the band infamous: crushing riffs, exploding drums and guttural screams. It’s a time capsule into what the band was, an influential grindcore group, and a hint to what the band would soon be in the next few years.
The 1988 house party performance features Napalm Death at its peak grindcore, with short-time vocalist Lee Dorrian at the helm. The vocals take root in the core and reverberate in the room, using more sound than enunciation. The singing here is the pinnacle of grindcore: all gut, no whine.
After the band’s release of Harmony Corruption, they turned away from their grindcore beginnings toward a death metal style. Part of this was due to the band’s ever-changing lineup. They went through more members in a decade than Spinal Tap went through drummers.
Napalm Death fans will recognize drummer Mick Harris instantly in this old school video. He was the band’s second drummer, joining in 1986 and playing a vital role on the album Scum. He’s credited as one of the driving forces behind Napalm Death’s late 1980s sound.
The drums in the video are absolutely frantic and unrelenting. His whole body slams through the drum kit as if possessed by a demon. It’s nearly impossible to keep your eye on anyone else in the video with his intensity.
Harris would later move on to a hugely influential career as an avant garde musician. It’s hard to imagine seeing him in his grindcore glory in this video knowing that he would move on to experimenting with industrial hip-hop in the 1990s just a few years later.
Mick Harris isn’t the only one who crossed genres from the band. This 1988 show was filmed in the middle of a serious turning point for the group. They were gaining fans from the addition of singer Dorrian and drummer Harris, but they were also making headway as one of the greatest grindcore acts in history. They were amassing a huge fanbase and primed to release From Enslavement to Obliteration.
While this album is still considered a rite of passage for any grindcore or metal fan, it would be the last for Dorrian and guitarist Bill Steer. Both left the group after the album was released.
Napalm Death’s constant lineup changes and evolution started to backfire on them in the 1990s. Many of their dedicated grindcore fans hated the band’s new death metal influences. The band began using less growling vocals that defined the genre, opting instead for a death metal sound.
But in this video, Napalm Death are at their heaviest. Check out the video of the historic performance below: