This month, we go to Stoke-On-Trent, UK, to talk about one of the most influential British hardcore bands ever…..Discharge.
Formed in 1977 by Terry “Tezz” Roberts and Roy “Rainy” Wainwright, they are often considered one of the first bands to play hardcore punk, particularly in the UK. Also one of the first to mix elements of Metal in their sound as well, though this comes a bit later.
In ’77, Tezz (vocals) and Rainy(guitar) recruited Tezz’s younger brother, Tony “Bones” Roberts on lead guitar, Nigel Bamford on bass and Tony “Akko” Axon on drums. The style/sound of the band at that time was more influenced by the ’77 era punk bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned. They got Tanya Rich as their manager, opened for bands such as The Clash, The Ruts and The Damned and began touring.
Akko and Bamford left later that year and the band recruited Kelvin “Cal” Morris as vocalist, moved Tezz to drums and Rainy to bass. They abandoned their old school punk style and wrote new songs with a more vicious style.
Cal screamed and shouted the vocals without melody, the bass and guitar were heavily distorted and the tempo steadily increased over the next year or so. The style change was part of a broader trend in the early ‘80’s in the UK, known as “UK 82” or 2nd generation UK hardcore, which took the 77 era sound and melded it with heavy drumbeats and wall of sound guitar that was also being found in NWOBHM bands such as Motorhead.
The new harder edged sound also tended to use much more nihilistic and violent lyrics, focusing on anarchist and pacifist themes while emphasizing the grisly effects of nuclear war. They also expressed these themes in the artwork used on their singles and albums, depicting the horrors of war in iconic black and white photography.
One of their first gigs with this line up was at Northwood Parish Hall. Among those in the crowd was local record shop owner Mike Stone, who ran the Clay Records label.
In February 1980, they signed with Clay Records and recorded their first 7” ep, Realities Of War. It was released in April and made the UK indie chart after being played on John Peel’s show, peaking at #5 and spending 44 weeks on the chart.
After releasing 2 more ep’s that charted that year (Fight Back reached #5 and Decontrol made it to #4), Tezz left the band. After a couple of drummers filled in, they replaced him with Gary Maloney. They then released their first 12” ep, Why, in 1981, which gave the band their first #1 on the UK indie chart.
People name drop that ep as a record that “revolutionized everything”, paving the way for what became hardcore punk, thrash, death metal and grind, but also containing within, the lyrics the serious political ideals and brutal backing sound of crust hardcore.
Tom Warrior of Celtic Frost credited Discharge as “a revolution, much like Venom”, saying “When I heard the first 2 Discharge records I was blown away. I was just starting to play an instrument and had no idea you could go so far. To me, they were unlike other punk bands, they sounded more metal”
In 1982, they recorded the ep Never Again, which reached #3 on the indie chart and #64 on the UK singles chart. They then released their first full length album, Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing. It reached #2 on the indie chart and #40 on the UK album chart. They played regularly throughout the UK, and the success of the album saw them touring in Canada, US, Italy, Yugoslavia, Holland, Finland and Sweden.
1982’s State Violence, State Control single garnered further positive reviews, being described in the fanzine Love And Molotov Cocktails as “….just about the most perfect realization of a combination of the musical power of Motorhead and the lyrical mastery of Dead Kennedys at their best. Discharge are out there on their own, at the top of their game and it’s hard to see how they can improve on this.”
In 1982, Bones left the band, later to join his brother in Broken Bones. He was replaced by Peter “Pooch” Purtill who brought significant metal influences. The ep Warning: Her Majesty’s Government Can Seriously Damage Your Health shows drastic differences in style, with Cal switching from his angry shouting to a more almost melodic style of singing. As well, tempos were slowed somewhat and the D-beat punk style was replaced with a more metal sound.
1983’s The Price Of Silence, ‘84’s The More I See and ‘85’s Ignorance singles showed more of the same transitional sounds and saw more line up changes as well.
In 1986, the band released Grave New World, a mainstream metal album with Cal singing in a high pitched voice. The album reached #10 but the band struggled with personnel struggles. Cal left the band and was replaced with ex-Wrathchild front man Rob “Rocky Shades” Berkeley. The band disbanded shortly thereafter.
Cal formed a new version of the band in 1990 with Andy Green on guitar, Anthony Morgan on bass and Mika Karppinen initially playing drums but was soon replaced by the returning Gary Maloney. In 1991 they released the album Massacre Divine, which retained the metal sound, though with a harder edge than found on Grave New World.
Cal changed his vocal style again, this time comparable to AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. They toured widely in support of the record but the tour was negatively received. In 1993 they released the album Shootin’ Up The World, which continued Cal’s new vocal style, though the songs themselves were heavier than on the previous album, coming close to thrash metal at times. Cal assembled further versions of the group but they again disbanded in 1999.
In 2001, the classic line-up of Cal, Tezz, Rainy and Bones reunited after meeting at a party held by original bassist Bamford and in 2002 they released their self titled album, Discharge, a return to their early 80’s style featuring political commentary and aggressive playing.
The D-beat drumming was back as well, although combined with the remaining metal influence, it gave the album a thrash/speed metal sound with its thrashy riffs.
Cal refused to tour in support of the album and left the band, to be replaced by Anthony “Rat” Martin of The Varukers.
The single The Beginning Of The End was released in 2006, which marked a further step towards a return to their punk roots.
Tezz left that same year, being replaced with Dave “Proper” Caution. In 2008, they released the album Desensitize and in 2012 released a split single with US band Off With Their Heads.
Over the band’s career, they’ve influenced many bands like Metallica, Soulfly, Monster Voodoo Machine, and Machine Head to name a few.
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