Flash Metal Suicide: Discharge
This week: 1986's Grave New World, and hardcore titans Discharge sabotage their own career
“In laughter, in anger, for better or worse/Join me when the adverse wind blows” - Dry Your Tears
Sure, you've probably screwed a few things up here and there. You might even consider yourself a bit of a bungler. Well, let me tell you something. No matter how badly you've blown it, you still haven't blown it as badly as Discharge did in 1986. They fucked things up so royally that they disbanded in disgrace a year later. With the possible exception of Celtic Frost's infamous Cold Lake, Discharge's '86 album Grave New World is the most obvious and audacious flash metal suicide ever committed. Time has done nothing to lessen the blow, either. Grave New World has not aged into a forgotten cult classic. It's still fucking horrible, and Discharge should still be ashamed of it. A year prior to its release, Discharge were one of the most vital and influential hardcore punk bands of all time. A year later, their name was mud. To paraphrase junkie poet laureate Jim Carroll, Grave New World is a constant warning to take the other direction.
But let's back up for a moment. It's important to know where Discharge stood in the pantheon of punk. The band formed in Stoke on Trent (birthplace of Lemmy!) in 1977, shortly after the first wave of British punk broke. Initially they were Pistols wannabes until their roadie, Cal Morris, took over on vocals, and all hell broke loose. His vocal style – hoarse grunts, basically – and the band's stripped-down, ultra-distorted wall-of-guitars sound was the blueprint for 80's hardcore in the UK.
Later on they threw in some metal leads and became one of the architects of the 'crossover' sound. Discharge, along with a smattering of other bands (GBH, Misfits, Suicidal Tendencies, DRI, COC) was one of the only punk bands metal kids listened to, and they were highly respected by both camps. Their sound inspired countless bands and still does, to this day. In fact their signature dirty thump has become its own genre, 'D-beat', and there are dozens of 'Dis' bands in operation today. Their first few records are holy grail items to anybody that loves heavy, primitive music. From 1980 to 1985, Discharge were untouchable. The kings of punk, basically. And then something went drastically wrong.