Head of David

  • Head of David
  • CD (UK Blast First) 1986 
  • Dogbreath EP (UK Blast First) 1986 
  • LP (UK Blast First) 1986 
  • The Saveana Mixes EP (UK Blast First) 1987 
  • Dustbowl (Blast First/Dutch East India) 1988 
  • White Elephant (UK Blast First) 1989 

Progenitors of Britain’s extremist grindcore scene, Head of David (who hail from the industrial backwater of Dudley, near the Birmingham birthplace of Black Sabbath) may not have been the first band to blur the line between industrial music and grunge metal, but one need look no further than their calculated, incessant pounding to witness its near obliteration. The virulent sterility of Dogbreath suggests what Big Black might have sounded like had Steve Albini been obsessed by Black Sabbath’s Paranoid: an overwrought guitar barrage and sinister, neanderthal machine rhythms (best put to use on a faithfully compulsive cover of Suicide’s “Rocket USA”).

LP (the CD edition of which is titled CD), combines four of Dogbreath‘s five tracks with four subsequent recordings. Overall, it is at once more minimalist and more selfconsciously anti-emotional. It’s blessedly easy, though, to ignore such stunted, sub-Sonic Youth lyrical fixations as “Joyride Burning X” and “Snuff Rider MC” since the dense, omnivorous metalslide sweeps up the lot with fascinating, twisted grace. Producer John Fryer extracts more surprises from the band’s hermetic sound on the Saveana Mixes EP, including some noirish ambience on “Adrenicide.”

By Dustbowl, Head of David had removed most of the electro-shock trappings (except for the devastatingly powerful rhythm machine) in order to be cast as tequila-swiggin’, Harley-ridin’ zombies from the Planet Hopper…Dennis, that is. While the psychotic Americana overkill quickly surpasses mere laughability on its way up the scale from Police Academy to (Monty Python’s) Killing Joke, Head of David pull off the stiff-limbed metal swagger with all the necessary thuggishness. Once again, production (this time by Albini in the wiry flesh) saves the day by submerging most of the verbiage. After Dustbowl, drummer/singer Justin Broadrick (who had been serving concurrently as the guitarist in Napalm Death) left to form the even more abrasive Godflesh. Head of David pressed on as a three-piece, but hadn’t issued any new material by the end of 1990.

White Elephant‘s eight tracks are drawn from a pair of John Peel radio sessions (1986 and ’87).

[Deborah Sprague]