"It has to be from the chest. You take a deep breath, and you just roar. You've either got it or you haven't. Some people are naturally gifted—the key is to give an identity to it." Shaun Embury, the bassist for Birmingham band Napalm Death, is telling me about the death grunt, the thunderous growl that's part of what makes grindcore and death metal so appealing to disaffected youth and BDSM types and so unappealing to everybody else.
While grindcore and its ilk can be a nasty and alienating bit of business (I attended a grindcore breakfast, which resulted in an enormous, sweaty singer rubbing my leftover tomato slices inside his athletic shorts while he, you know, felt the beats), Napalm Death has added gravitas to their output by aggressively evolving their sound into a thick, noisy hybrid of metal genres and traditional punk rock.
They've also established themselves as the thinking dude's metal band. Political in the direction of animal rights, religion and social justice, Napalm Death have assumed the role of objectors in a genre that's usually less than eloquent. Embury says, "Lyrically, as a band, we try to deal with issues that other people are afraid to talk about. . . . In the past, we've also gone into more personal sides of what we fear the future may bring. . . . It's more about speaking up for people who can't speak up for themselves." I question whether or not they can have any real impact—I'm unconvinced that any band, be it Napalm Death or U2, can affect actual political difference. "If it makes a massive change, I don't so much know. But, you know, it can point people in a more positive direction."
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Napalm Death with A Life Once Lost, Dead to Fall, Animosity, Intestinal Strangulation and Chandala at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.galaxytheatre.com. Thurs., Dec. 7, 8 p.m. $20.