Extreme Noise Terror - A Holocaust In Your Head
Head Eruption Records
Grindcore, Crust Punk
14 songs (24:30)
Release year: 1989
Extreme Noise Terror
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

My review plans for this week have been torn up in quiet shock. Although the sad news of the passing of Phil Vane, one half of the dual-vocalist attack of legendary crusties Extreme Noise Terror, has barely sunk into the internet, it seems like the world’s grind fans are already in mourning. Every report I have ever read, every person who met Phil had the same opinion of him – he was a decent human being whose uncompromising love for punk took precedence above all the usual music industry bullshit, and grindcore will be all the worse off for having lost him. Although Extreme Noise Terror never gained the attention and critical kudos of Napalm Death, they have always stood up for extremity in music and are a solid band, if never one to achieve (or want!) fame or greatness. All that you really need to know is that they play grind for grind’s sake, and every metal and punk fan out there should own at least one of their albums.

I’ve sung the praises of 2001’s Being And Nothing elsewhere, and it is a truly heavy bit of death/grind that deserves a future review, but today’s review being in memory of Phil Vane it seems only right to look at an album that he actually performed on, his absence from the band between 1999 and 2006 putting Being And Nothing out of consideration. Instead, let’s travel back to 1989 and Extreme Noise Terror’s debut full-length, the twenty-four minute long A Holocaust In Your Head. It’s one of those odd little releases that rarely gets mentioned these days, partly because the original recording only exists on the ’89 vinyl release, the album being re-recorded some time later for CD. In addition, each remaster of the CD contains a different tracklisting, most of them wrong – so bear with me if you spot any errors in my version, it’s not deliberate!

As you’d expect, the easiest comparison is to early Napalm Death, with less speed and more punk. It still an intense, fast-paced bit of grind that sounds quite unlike any of the modern ‘razor’-sounding bands. Drums don’t blast so much as d-beat to oblivion, faster and hungrier, whilst the (single) guitar churns frantically, bass rumbles lost behind the clatter but often appearing in moments of relative calm. The vocals are the stars, deep barks and higher-pitched snarls from Phil Vane and Dean Jones forming a dual attack that’s all the more impressive for how beautifully and smoothly it works. Songs themselves are brief and to the point, only one hitting the three minute mark with most at much less, but they’re still well-written and just about distinguishable to a discerning grinder, if not your average newbie – opener Statement is about as punk as it gets before speeding up into chaos, the following Deceived grindier and shorter, and We The Hopeless careening madly into a molten pile of feedback before restarting even stronger. Highlights are plenty, Show Us You Care and Use Your Mind an especially devastating duo, although the infamous hardline vegan anthem Murder with heartstring-tugging sampling and plain message (“450 million animals are murdered in Britain every year/To be shoved down your throat and shat out of your arse!”) is a definite winner even if you're a principled omnivore like me. They even call out Billy Milano in If You’re Only In It For The Music (S.O.D. off!).

I regret underscoring 2008’s Law Of Retaliation, going back and giving it another listen in less critical a mood. It’s quite amazing to hear how little the Extreme Noise Terror sound has changed over the years, getting a little heavier here or a little punkier there – none of the drastic changes that Napalm Death or Carcass went through are replicated in this career. Instead, Extreme Noise Terror have stayed true to themselves and their sound, giving us a ferocious, principled, and above all extreme sound that appeals to that defiant minority of metalheads and punks who appreciate what so many don’t. Phil Vane’s part in the development of the genre of grindcore will not be forgotten – RIP, and wherever you are, hope you’re grinding on.

Killing Songs :
Statement, Deceived, We The Hopeless, Show Us You Care, Use Your Mind, Murder, Another Nail In The Coffin
Goat quoted 88 / 100
Other albums by Extreme Noise Terror that we have reviewed:
Extreme Noise Terror - Law Of Retaliation reviewed by Goat and quoted 59 / 100
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