Genre: Grindcore | Label: Earache Records
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: YouTube
As the 80’s came to a close, grindcore pioneers Napalm Death were honing in on a more death metal oriented sound that came to fruition on their third album, “Harmony Corruption.” Preceding and following that album, the band had some shorter releases that showed the development of this new found death metal approach. “Death by Manipulation” compiles three EPs as well as a split 7″ into a single disc, which is certainly helpful for those who don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on the original vinyl releases.
The compilation starts with four tracks from 1991’s “Mass Appeal Madness” EP. Of the four tracks, three are brand new, and there’s a re-recording of “Unchallenged Hate” from their second LP. The three new songs continue the style of Floridan death metal on “Harmony Corruption,” as it retains the same line up. The recording on here comparable to the aforementioned album, as it is still obviously going after the famed Scott Burns/Morrisound tones that so many death metal bands in the era used, but slightly darker in sound. These tracks are strong, and some have still made their way onto set lists in recent years.
The next three tracks are from the “Suffer the Children” EP which came out in 1990. This EP is really more of a single, as the title track is right off “Harmony Corruption,” and the other two songs are from the same session. “Siege of Power” is a song off “Scum” that’s been re-recorded with a totally different middle section. It’s got more of a death metal vibe than the original version, and manages to be the main attraction out of these three tracks. The song “Harmony Corruption” is an overly long interlude, and something I usually skip. Regardless, having these tracks on the disc is still nice.
Without a doubt, the highlight of this compilation are the six songs from 1989’s “Mentally Murdered” EP. These are the first recordings where Napalm Death starts showing a lot more death metal influence, and it’s performed by the same line up on the seminal “From Enslavement to Obliteration” album. As such, these songs truly do sound like they were crafted between the two albums. There’s definitely that same unhinged grinding that rears its head, but it’s put around death metal riffs in much more elaborate structures than Napalm has ever done before. Bill Steer’s influence and skill are undoubtedly a part of this, as some of these riffs wouldn’t sound out of place on Carcass’ “Symphonies of Sickness” (which came out the same year). Lee Dorrian’s vocals are absolutely brutal, and I think his performance on this EP set the tone for guys like Cryptopsy’s Lord Worm in the coming years. Every song on here has excellent riffing, and you can tell the band is just bursting with creativity with their newly found death metal approach. The title track is a re-recording from the FETO album, and stands out as the grindiest on this recording. The last track, “No Mental Effort,” clocks in at 4 minutes, which is easily the longest Napalm Death song up to this point.
In contrast with the death metal material, the next six tracks come from Napalm Death’s side of a split 7″ with Japanese grinders S.O.B. Again we have the FETO line up, but they’re at full grinding force here. It opens up with a new version of “Multinational Corporations,” which sounds eerily similar to “Half Life” by no-wave band Swans. The next five tracks grind by in typical old school Napalm fashion, and they even included a 7 second micro-song. These tracks are honestly pretty good, but if you’re only a fan of the grind era of Napalm Death, they hardly make buying this compilation worth it. I feel they’re a welcome addition, as the original split is hard to find, and it’s also the first material recorded after FETO, so it makes sense to include it.
Some versions include three live bonus tracks from the “Live Corruption” album. These are kind of pointless, but at least they’re decent enough sounding live tracks. It feels weird including them since it’s not the full set, but some of the between song banter is amusing. I usually skip these tracks myself.
The amount of material packed in here is great, and I regularly listen to “Death by Manipulation.” It’s a great way to own some crucial releases by the band without having to shell out lots of cash. As far as I’m concerned, Napalm Death from ’88 to ’91 is some of the most prime grindcore/death metal, and they really struck gold during the those transitional years.