Napalm Death first took root in 1981 as a hardcore crust-punk band. By the time of its seminal 1987 debut album, Scum, all of the band’s founding members had essentially packed it in. Shane Embury joined the band as guitarist, but ultimately switched to bass for the group’s 1988 sophomore release, From Enslavement to Obliteration; an album that many claim is the quintessential blueprint for the grindcore genre. Carcass guitarist Bill Steer was part of Napalm Death’s first two records, but left soon after, leaving Embury as the band’s anchor.
Vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway joined in 1989 and along with guitarists Mitch Harris and Jesse Pintado, made their debuts on Napalm Death’s third album, Harmony Corruption. Drummer Danny Herrera, who completes the band’s longstanding line-up, joined in 1991. In a recent interview with Metalholic, outspoken singer and noted lyricist, Greenway, became self-deprecating about his first effort with the band:
“When I did Harmony Corruption—the vocals—I was sh*tfaced to be honest (laughs). I’ll be totally honest with you. I couldn’t say otherwise. You know I did the vocals on Harmony Corruption in the time you could have three or four spins of the record. I did them in one afternoon, right to finish. I don’t even remember—I remember doing a couple of songs—you know you get those things that stick in your mind? I remember doing a couple of songs, but mostly I just don’t. The vocals came out pretty well, all that considered.”
After throwing the rule book out the window for the band’s first two records, which featured a combined 50 songs; including the one-second long, “You Suffer”, the band became more focused on Harmony Corruption, delivering a standard 10-track affair. At the time, many Napalm Death fans became critical of the album because it leaned too far toward death metal and away from the band’s grindcore roots. According to Greenway, it was the record label’s idea to record Harmony Corruption at the famed Florida death metal studio, Morrisound Recording. Greenway admits he too was underwhelmed with the final product:
“I just wish it would have had a different production. I think it’s a little thin. And that’s not just because it’s a 25-year-old album. It’s because even at the time it was a bit thin. And I wouldn’t blame anybody for that. I’d say that we went to Morrisound, but I think we were lumped in with the Florida death metal thing, wholesale; in production, everything, and I just don’t think it fit into the Napalm sound. I just don’t think that production suited the band.”
Napalm Death would continue to churn out one influential album after another through the 90s and into the new millennium. Pintado, who allegedly coined the term “grindcore”, left the band in the early aughts and succumbed to liver failure in 2006. The band forged on as the quartet it remains today.
In January, Napalm Death will release its sixteenth full length studio effort, Apex Predator – Easy Meat. As usual, the songs are packed with raw aggression, distorted, fuzzed out bass and guitars, marrow pulverizing drum work, and Greenway’s caustic delivery of socially conscious lyrical content. This time around the singer takes aim at the hideous nature of the current human slavery systems:
“There was one event that was the catalyst really, which was a building collapse in Bangladesh. It was called Rana Plaza, and it was a sweatshop basically. There were big multinational companies with a stake in this place. What basically happened is a 1000 to 2000 people lost their lives or were seriously injured. And it wasn’t as if there was no warning; there were big cracks in the structure like a couple of days before and yet they still sent the people in to work under duress. It really sort of made me think I have to do an exposé on this.”
The full interview with Greenway can be heard below as he discusses the new record; the lyrics, the songs, and the production. He also talks about touring, his favorite albums of 2014, and more.