Extreme Noise Terror
Holocaust In My Head
posted on 9/2011 By:
Once upon a time, in a place called England, in a time called the mid-1980s, the Gods of Crust Punk gave birth to an angry baby, a child whom they christened Grindcore. At the time, Grindcore was loud, louder than anything ever before heard; Grindcore was fast, faster than anything ever before felt; and Grindcore was ugly, uglier than anything ever before seen. It was an angry child, filled with seething contempt, directed in self-righteous youthful rage at the corporations and politicians that ran the world, at the blind legions of drones that toiled in neverending servitude. Grindcore was filled with rebellion and fueled by pure disgust with the forces of government, capitalist economics, religion, mass media... And in time, Grindcore grew up, changed as we all must do when we grow up, added new elements and discarded old ones, but then as now, when Grindcore spoke, the words came in bursts of violent visceral noise, in white-hot screams and furious grunts, at blistering speeds and blasting volume; and back then, when Grindcore spoke, it sounded quite a lot like this...
Alongside, among others, Napalm Death and Sore Throat, Britain's Extreme Noise Terror is one of the founding fathers of grind, though in truth, they're not a straight-up grind outfit; they're the crustiest of the bunch, their voice falling somewhere between that of the parent and of the child. A Holocaust In Your Head is their 1988 debut LP, now re-issued by Candelight with ENT's half of the In It For Life split appended as a bonus. Musically, as mentioned, ENT splits the difference between crust and grind, with ragged filthy tones, roughshod production, unrelenting full-throttle tempos, punk-based guitar-work and Dean Jones' and Phil Vane's duelling high-low vocals.
As is the case with many grindcore efforts, the songs tend to blur together, with a few standouts in the anti-slaughterhouse screed "Murder," with its repeated pro-animal-rights sample atop Tony Dicken's blastbeats, and the bass-led "If You're Only In It For The Music (SOD Off)," a slam on Anthrax / M.O.D. / Nuclear Assault hardcore spin-off S.O.D. (Or more accurately, a slam on S.O.D. vocalist Billy Milano. The intro riff is lifted from that band's "Milk," and the song closes with the line "Milano -- you're dead!" in direct reference to the band's various "Ballad Of..." tracks.) For the most part, Holocaust is a blur of proto-grind, decrying bullshit propaganda, subliminal music mind control and the fucked-up system. Vane and Jones spit forth two-toned venom, and Pete Hurley churns out Discharge-indebted power-chord riffs beneath them, and the whole things wraps up in a tidy thirty-five minutes. (For those keeping tabs, that's eleven minutes longer than the original release, now that the extra tracks are tacked on.) Though I don't have an original copy for comparison, whatever Candlelight did to the reissue -- made it longer, made it once again available -- they didn't clean up the sound, at least not to any level approaching tight or slick or produced. Holocaust still hits with the subtlety and precision of a carpet bomb, one long explosion beneath Vane and Jones' leftist political lyrics...
Holocaust kicks and screams in all the right ways, but there is a catch, though it's not an album-specific one -- grindcore, as a whole, isn't for the casual listener, of course, and as one of the earliest and crustiest and least-musically-advanced purveyors of said sound, Extreme Noise Terror fits in a niche within a niche. By and large, boiled down to utter basics, ENT follows right in line with Discharge, just stripped back and amped up to the nth power, louder and faster and angrier, with dashes of metal amidst the backbone of punk -- tech-grind, death/grind, whatever came after... well, this is not that. But whatever they were, however they got this holocaust into your heads, ENT made one hell of a grand racket in the process. Holocaust is a portrait of Grindcore as a young man, and it's back now for the next generation to hear (or also, somewhat ironically, for the first generation to buy again). Nevertheless, for crusties and old-school fans and anyone interested in the genesis of grind, Holocaust is an important effort from a very important band.
(On a more tragic note, this reissue also serves as something of a posthumous tribute to Phil Vane, who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year... R.I.P. Phil... )
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