Various Artists
Grind Madness at the BBC: The Earache Peel Sessions

For those that don’t know, John Peel (RIP) was a BBC radio DJ who championed the extreme and the underground. While BBC Radio 1 and 2 (back then), was busy playing The Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, Mel and Kim and other pop chart topping tripe, Peel and his late night Sunday radio show was playing Adam and the Ants, Sister of Mercy, The Sex Pistols and such. Man, I can actually remember this day Peel previewing Slayer’s South of Heaven track by track and how disappointed I was….

As part of his show he often had (then) unheard of bands come into the legendary Maida Vale studio in London for some exclusive recording/listening sessions and here in all its glory is the most extreme of those sessions from 1987 – 1990 featuring early material from such ground breaking, legendary UK acts like Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Godflesh and Extreme Noise Terror as well as more unknown, but noless influential punk acts like Unseen Terror, Heresy and Intense Degree.

With 118 tracks spread over 3 CDs, this is a truly monster compilation even if many of the tracks (namely Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror) are the 4-30 second variety and most have materialized at some point on previous Peel Session releases and official releases at some point. Still there is no denying the more raw, primal and virtually live sound that these tracks deliver, as opposed to the more polished versions that would appear on various albums and such.

Many of the super short 34 Napalm Death tracks have been released on 2000s The Complete Radio One Sessions and resurface on Scum, From Enslavement to Obliteration, The Mentally Murdered EP and even “Suffer the Children” from 1990s style shifting Harmony Corruption, but it doesn’t not change how pure and powerful the bands early material was and how genre defining it was, taking punk into whole new and unheard levels and the Mitch Harris termed “grindcore”.

Arising out of the same crusty punk scene as Napalm Death but never quite making the same long term legendary impact as their brethren, even though their 21 tracks ply the same power chord filled burst of sub two minute crust. As with the Napalm Death tracks, most were released on other Peel compilations or other splits, EPs and albums at some point. And while the band continues to released material, its safe to say they never quite made it like Napalm Death did, but this early material is as savage, punky and violent as anything Napalm Death were doing at the time, its just one bands developed and grew, and Extreme Noise Terror seemed contest to lurk in the crusty underground.

The 7 Carcass tracks have all been released in prior Peel Session releases, and show Carcass and their gurgling grinding pre Necrotism best, culled from Reek of Putrefaction and Symphonies of Sickness. And it’s a raw barrage of Walker and Steers Vocals over a murky, feedback laden viscera- no polished, cantering metal death metal here just the classic grind of “Exhume to Consume” and its sickly ilk. Classic brilliance performed by a classic band before they became rock stars.

I was interested in Bolt Throwers 12 entries here as I never actually have heard any Bolt Thrower pre Realm Of Chaos so to hear the 1988 Peel Sessions here and tracks from In Battle There is No Law, its actually quite striking to hear the bands thrash vocals and influence of The Peel Session tracks (i.e. “Forgotten Existence”, “Attack in the Aftermath”, Psychological Warfare”). However, the familiar rumble and growls surface for “Drowned in Torment” and the following tracks where the current Bolt Thrower sound appears to have been born. To hear “Warmaster” in such a pure form is truly a pleasure.

The four Godflesh tracks (“Wound”, “Like Rats”, Pulp”, “Tiny Tears”) are all taken from 1989s landmark Streetcleaner album where former Napalm Death member Justin Broadrick practically invented what is now called Industrial metal. I can still remember hearing “Like Rats” in vinyl for the first time in a friend’s bedroom, and was being shaken to the core at its harsh, pulsing, throbbing and unforgiving tone- and little has changed 20 years later, as you can hear the true back bone of his current act Jesu.

Now, it may seem like I’m skimping on the tracks by Heresy, Intense Degree and Unseen Terror– and that’s because I am. My fingers are tired and other than Unseen Terror being a short lived Napalm Death/Extreme Noise Terror clone featuring members that would move on to join Napalm Death (Mitch Harris and Shane Embury), there’s not much of interest in the remaining tracks other than for collectors. Heresy and Intense Degree are a rough and ready if energetic form of hardcore punk akin to early very early Agnostic Front, R.K.L and Suicidal Tendencies. It may be considered as classic on some fronts, and certainly in line with Peels tastes, but to lump them in with some of these true grindcore legends is a bit of a reach in my opinion.

Still, the pure unadulterated, almost live delivery and natural recording of all the tracks from the major players here make for a wonderfully retroactive listen of a bygone age and some truly legendary bands in their formative stages and this is easily one of the best Compilations CDs ever put together, even with the filler.  The end result in a true must have, affordable compilation CD for any fan of extreme metal looking to hear some of the pasts most influential artists and songs all in one package rather than trying to go out a pay an arm and a leg for all the peel Sessions recordings separately.

It should be noted that my review is of a digital promo, so thus I cannot comment of the packaging or supposely detailed linear notes provided by Napalm Death’s Mitch Harris.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
December 23rd, 2009


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