Love, and Other Indelible Stains

by Craig Hayes

29 May 2012

Image from Shootin Up the World album cover (1995) 

Q: And Children? A: And Children

Of all the metal genres, grindcore is most closely aligned with crust, sharing many comparable ideals. Seminal late ‘80s debuts by British acts such as Napalm Death (Scum), Extreme Noise Terror ( A Holocaust in Your Head) and Carcass ( Reek of Putrefaction) would not exist if the respective band members had not adored Discharge and its progeny.

Originally, all three bands were heavily involved in the UK hardcore/crust crossover scene, from which grindcore developed. They then went on to help establish extreme metal in the UK and around the globe. In the US, Flint, Michigan’s Repulsion, and Weymouth, Massachusetts’ Siege, both of which would go on to inspire endless grindcore and death metal bands, also cited Discharge as a formative influence.

Extreme metal’s propulsion, barbarity and mettle are frequently credited to the riotous UK act Venom. The band’s Welcome to Hell (‘81) and Black Metal (‘82) albums have inspired generations of musicians. However, Venom was clearly influenced by Discharge’s early work. Venom’s blend of raggedy-ass, technically inept metal had a huge impact on extreme metal’s pioneering artists. However, the idea that music so amateurish and jarring, lacking any sense of dexterity, even had a place among metal’s elaborate solos and riffs directly correlates to Discharge’s logic that passion always trumps mastery.

Discharge’s diacritic is stamped upon a gargantuan array of formative metal albums. From the thrash realm—where extreme metal suckled in its infancy—early works seethed with the raw ferocity and resolve Discharge traded in. Works such as Slayer’s Show No Mercy, Exodus’ Bonded by Blood, Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All and Sepultura’s Morbid Visions. That hardcore steadfastness was firmly in evidence as Sepultura overcame significant impediments to secure Brazil’s position on the global metal map. That same determination is ablaze today in the crusty hardcore of Tragedy, Heartless, and Full of Hell, all of which combine Discharge’s brutishness with US hardcore’s tenacity.

Heartless - Clean Slate (2011)

Death metal benefited enormously from Discharge’s accent; its essence permeated scores of seminal outfits. As Swedish death metal roared into life it ignored much of the metal being produced in its home country. Instead, crucial catalysts in the scene’s creation were early ‘80s Swedish hardcore punk outfits Anti Climax and Mob 47, which themselves were ignited by Discharge’s spark.

Discharge opened a porous border between punk and metal. Its bulldozing rhythms, encased in a chrysalis of distortion, suffused classic albums like Entombed’s Left Hand Path and Possessed’s Seven Churches, along with countless others. These days, death metal’s grimy sheathing is utilized ceaselessly in punk and metal, best heard in bands such as Bombs of Hades, Nails, Black Breath, and Trap Them. When death metal simmers down to the rockier vibe of death ‘n’ roll, D-beat and crust’s pulse is easily identified.

Pivotal releases in the development of black metal are scored with Discharge’s taint: Bathory’s self-titled ‘84 debut, Hellhammer’s Apocalyptic Raids EP, Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky and Mayhem’s Deathcrush EP. Although Discharge of ‘82 would have detested much of black metal’s thesis, those punk philosophies of building a community of likeminded followers and pouring scorn on proficiency were crucial in black metal’s development. Discharge proved that intricate melodies could be kicked aside in favor of slicing straight through the chest; a ubiquitous feature of black metal’s icy lo-fi climes.

One of black metal’s forefathers, Darkthrone, has come full circle, returning to its crustier punk roots on recent releases—one of many black metal bands reaffirming Discharge’s legacy with reductively rancorous works. The contemporary feral black metal of Craft, Thrall, and Revenge, and blackened crust bands such as Iskra, Bone Awl, Masakari, the Secret, Cara Neir, and All Pigs Must Die filter Discharge through the lens of Scandinavia’s inhospitable black metal forebears.

All Pigs Must Die - Sadistic Vindicator (2011)

The ill-omened blues of Discharge is consummately reflected in the crustier underground of sludge metal. The mucilaginous stomp of Eyehategod’s In the Name of Suffering and Buzzov*en’s To a Frown are two early sludge works whose harrowing dirges reflect the churning, cankerous howl of Discharge. Issues of addiction, isolation, grief and pain fill the ulcerated recesses of sludge metal.

Although similarly joyous purges are found in the way Discharge spat into the eye of the world, sludge relays the crippling personal cost of ignoring Discharge’s warnings. This element is skillfully illuminated in the more experimental and progressive crusty doom-laden metal of Atriarch, Wolvhammer, and Young and in the Way—all of which is underscored by the very same maelstrom envisaged by a quartet of UK punk rockers 35 years ago.

Discharge’s influence was rife in the early years of many metal bands’ careers. Discharge’s timbre was all pervasive, from the squalidness of crossover thrash, to genre-defining works by Corrosion of Conformity ( Animosity), Neurosis ( Souls at Zero ) and His Hero is Gone ( Fifteen Counts of Arson). Metal has splintered off into ever more elaborate sub-genres since Discharge’s heyday, but its diffuse nature has not rendered Discharge’s presence mute.

While some bands have shucked off Discharge’s primitive thrust in the quest for compositional complexity, Discharge’s influence remains in their live shows, where bellicosity rules supreme. It’s a testament to Discharge that even bands drifting far from its orbit still cover its songs, both live and on albums. As bands like Wolfbrigade, Avulse, Bädr Vogu, Stormcrow, and Misery pound the crusty metal and D-beat home, it’s clear that although metal and punk move inexorably forward they cannot remove Discharge’s indelible stain.

Wolfbrigade - Piece of Mind (2012)

A Look at Tomorrow

After being so ably fertilized, Discharge’s offspring are thriving—the metal underground heaves with its DNA. The devastating barrages of an immense pool of artists reveal their parentage, the current roster of label Southern Lord teems with crust aficionados, steadfast label Profane Existence continues to be a source of great work, and a simple Bandcamp query overturns a steaming morass of bands that Discharge played a crucial role in conceiving.

That punk and metal would ever consummate their relationship, let alone indulge in such lively intercourse, may have seemed unthinkable to the genres’ ancestors. However, Discharge got punk and metal talking. Admittedly, it wasn’t always an affable conversation. There was fraught, unwanted fumbling, turbulent misunderstandings, and a great deal of sulking in the corner—but that was to be expected with two such obstinate entities.

However, once punk and metal took the plunge, there was no need to suffer whirls of cognitive dissonance if you happened to enjoy bands from both genres. No need to undergo an existential crisis trying to decide which to hide under your bed: your Slayer LPs or your Fugazi.

All hyperbole aside, a scene as broad as extreme metal will never be truly defined by a single band—and no single music column will ever be able to acknowledge the countless other bands that helped foster the creative vortex where punk and metal reside (in)harmoniously. I know, I missed your favorite band. I never mentioned Antisect, Doom, Aus Rotten, or Nausea, and I should have discussed Amebix’s exceptional 2011 release, Sonic Mass. But it would be impossible to overstate the decisive role Discharge played in the creation and fermentation of the contemporary extreme metal scene.

How important is Discharge to extreme metal? Take a piece of paper and try to map its family tree without the band. You’ll soon find you’re missing a vital root. To ignore Discharge’s fundamental role in shaping extreme metal’s topography is to misunderstand its lineage completely. Punk and metal’s relationship has been tempestuous and bountiful, and if you want to truly understand the capriciousness of Discharge’s heirs, it’s imperative the full hot-blooded tale is always told.

Discharge - Free Speech For the Dumb (1982)


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