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MUSIC NAPALM DEATH : Fast Tracks : If you want lyrics, read them at home before you go hear the band play.

August 22, 1991|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Napalm Death is the fastest band in the world. The group plays some songs that are about a second long. On Wednesday, it will be the second band of a four-band lineup when it plays at the Anaconda Theatre in Isla Vista. Each band gets just half an hour to play, thus maximizing Napalm Death's potential for speed and giving fans the opportunity to hear 1,800 songs in a single set.

"We've only got two songs like that," lead screamer Barney Greenway said in a recent phone interview from Pittsburgh. "Since we're only getting about half an hour on this tour, we only do one of those songs, 'Dead.' We always try to play as fast as we can without killing ourselves."

Napalm Death, on the appropriately named Earache label, is from Birmingham, England. It is also one of the loudest bands in the world.

How loud, you ask? It could scare cats in another time zone or make a statue of Gen. MacArthur come back to life. Napalm Death could turn your ears to cement just before they fall off, making for some very attractive if unusual ashtrays.

It's beyond punk, beyond thrash, beyond metal, beyond adjectives and generally outside the law of gravity. Napalm Death music even has a name.

"Grindcore is a name made up by several English people--people in a lot of different bands. It basically describes this type of music, which is a somewhat fast metal-and-punk sort of thing," Greenway said.

"We don't really like labels, though it tends to make you cringe. We're not a death metal band, which has to do with the lyrical content, chopping people up and such. That stuff is for kinky people, and we're just the opposite, even though our sound is similar to other bands. Our music is really fast and really intense, but it's just music. Napalm Death is just Napalm Death to me."

And the way Greenway sings, you think he's taking a Do-It-Yourself Tracheotomy 101 course. He growls more than sings, sounding not unlike the Wolfman or the Predator, or maybe a Tasmanian devil in heat.

"I have no problem whatsoever with my throat or my voice," Greenway said. "The thing about touring I don't like is getting sick. On the last tour, I got pneumonia and I thought I was going to die. It's scary getting sick so far away from home and I was really ill."

When the band kicks it into warp drive, Greenway is known to do some loud, indecipherable growling, which could be in Mongolian. If you're there for the lyrics, you had better read them at home before you go. And Napalm Death doesn't cater to the typical little metal kid. And the group doesn't do songs about sex and drugs or the only five-letter word that matters to metal heads, party . They are rather socially concerned citizens.

"It's really quite a mixed show," Greenway said. "There's not a lot of thrashers. There's a lot of moms and dads that are curious about what we're doing, which is cool to me. We would never play with any right-wing band and we don't like those Nazi skinheads. We went through all that a few years ago in England, but it's over now. People just won't stand for that."

The tour, which stars Brazilian headliners and metal maniacs Sepultura as well as Sacred Reich, Sick Of It All and you-know-who, is being billed as the New Titans on the Block.

"The name has nothing to do with us. It's a most dreary name for a tour," Greenway said. "We just wanted to play with Sepultura because they're our good friends. Things were a bit shaky on the tour at first. The organization was poor--no sound check and like that--but everything's fine now. And we don't want any repeats of the Country Club show we did earlier this year when two people got stabbed and one of them died."

Napalm Death, having nothing to do with the Robert Duvall character in "Apocalypse Now," has been around for more than a decade and has released a number of albums, including the current "Harmony Corruption." The others, previously only available in Europe, are being released here.

"We started in 1981 as a punk band and got our name years ago by a guy who played on our 'Scum' album. Basically, in 1986, our current drummer joined and we started to speed it up with some hard-core influences.

"I really can't explain our popularity because we're so extreme."

* WHERE AND WHEN

Sepultura, Sacred Reich, Sick Of It All, Napalm Death at the Anaconda Theatre, 935 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista, 685-3112. It all happens Wednesday night at 8--20 bucks!

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