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Discharge: Society's Victims

Album Notes

Discharge split heads and changed minds with the raging and righteousness of early releases like the Realities of War EP (1980) and the "Why" 12" from 1983. But the pioneering U.K. hardcore unit lost focus with lineup shifts and an eventual drift toward metal, and their legacy was tarnished or criminally forgotten by the mid-'90s. Since then the band's been anthologized and re-released as much as it's been maligned. Various labels released compendiums of their early singles; the band's own 2001 deal with Sanctuary brought expanded reissues of early releases, as well as collections like 2002's Decontrol: The Singles. All of this means Discharge devotees will already own much of Society's Victims, or at least its first half, roughly from Realities of War through the Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing LP. But Society's Victims continues from there, and in doing so gets close to being the definitive statement of their legacy, warts and all. It delves into Discharge's conflicted mid-period with the title track from Grave New World, as well as two songs each from the early-'90s efforts Massacre Divine and Shootin' Up the World. "Grave"'s sudden shift toward Robert Plant-styled vocals and galloping metal chording really is jarring, particularly after the bluster and grit of the Hear Nothing material. And cuts like "City of Fear" and "Leaders Deceivers" are interesting as statements of the muscular thrash sound that hardcore helped create, but that doesn't make them very memorable. Still, these songs' failings only make 2002's eponymous comeback album -- with the original lineup reconstituted -- that much more stinging. Disc two ends with an abbreviated form of the album. Society's Victims' third disc gathers 2004 remakes of classics like "Hell Is War" and "State Violence, State Control" with Varukers vocalist Tony "Rat" Martin, as well as live material spanning Discharge's entire career. ~ Johnny Loftus


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