Released: July 1, 1986
The list of records that I love that a lot of people hate is probably not all that short, but the one that always comes to mind first is Discharge’s 1986 LP, Grave New World. Some treat it as a departure or even a sellout (the worst of all punk rock sins) by the godfathers of British hardcore.
Without a doubt, the band’s early 7″ and 12″ EPs in 1980-81 defined a genre. They were fast and hard and deadly serious and the ripples from those short blasts were felt in punk and metal alike. At the same time though, they were pretty one-dimensional, attempting to pummel government and religion alike. Compared to peers like the Exploited, they may have even been fairly articulate, but that is a low, low bar. 1982’s Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing showed only slight growth musically and lyrically. It was great stuff, but hardly enough to keep making more records.
Things would start to change though starting with The Price of Silence (1983), The More I See (1984) and Ignorance (1985), three EPs that saw the band evolve fairly rapidly well beyond the brutish assault of their first few years. This may be attributed in part to the departure of Tony “Bones” Roberts who continued on in the mostly unimaginative Broken Bones.
Granted the harmonics-heavy guitar and crazy high-pitched vocals on Grave New World are unlike anything even on the EPs that led up to it, but the album is not a huge departure as much as the end of a progression. This was the direction they were heading, not a sudden turn. It has the intensity with which Discharge started, but also more musicality, pace changes and lyrical depth. Can you imagine any of the early British hardcore bands doing “In Love Believe?” Can you imagine the Exploited or GBH doing a 15 minute song? The “Downward Spiral,” at 15:09 is longer than a lot of hardcore records!
For those with a very conservative view of hardcore, Grave New World is never going to work. I guess it didn’t really work for Discharge either. They tried a few more albums in the 90’s that took what they did in 1986 in somewhat new directions that just failed to gel and then returned to the sound they pioneered with 2002’s self-titled record. Since 2014, the early lineup is back together minus singer Kelvin Morris, but the results are predictable. It’s a shame that hardcore fans prefer the same old thing over a record that saw a great band expand what hardcore could be.
If you like regular vanilla hardcore, don’t bother with Grave New World. Actually, most people probably won’t like the record. It is very riffy and the vocals are an acquired taste. However, if you are curious about what British hardcore could have been with a little more creativity, the album is an interesting insight. And it remains one of my favorites 35 years later.