His basslines have graced some of the most extreme songs ever recorded. And with Napalm Death, he helped to build and shape grindcore, influencing thousands of bands – from California to Singapore – in the process.
But Shane Embury has also leant his formidable fretwork to a myriad of acts over the last 35 years, working with globe-spanning line-ups and constantly pushing the boundaries of metal and hardcore.
This spring, he released the debut album of Dark Sky Burial, a solo project which revealed his passion for ambient soundscapes and dark electronica, while new releases from Napalm Death and Venomous Concept are imminent*.
So, we thought that would be an ideal excuse to throw a spotlight on the Shropshire-born four-stringer’s illustrious career – and explore a diverse, decades-spanning and inspirational body of work.
Take a deep breath, we’re going in…
Where it all began.
Well, not quite…
Embury actually played drums on three demos by Warhammer – arguably one of the UK’s foremost death metal bands – in 1985. But along with fellow Warhammerer Mitch Dickinson, the then kit basher felt US hardcore’s pull… and was smitten by BPM-pushing acts like Siege and Heresy. So Unseen Terror was born, with sticksman Embury and guitarist/vocalist Dickinson joined by Azagthoth’s Pete Giles on bass.
The result was a sole album, Human Error, released on the then embryonic Earache Records in 1987. An exercise in rapid fire, thrashy hardcore, it was sadly hampered by a weak production effort – but was still a highly significant release at the time.
It’s also worth checking out Unseen Terror’s Peel Session, which was released as part of the Grind Madness At The BBC compilation in 2015.
You might have heard of these guys.
Well, it’s a fair bet, given that you have clicked on this article…
By the time Embury joined the Brummie pioneers in 1987, Napalm Death had already gone through five bassists, including founder Nick Bullen, Graham Robertson, Finbar Quinn, Pete Shaw and Jim Whitley. And it was Bullen and Whitley who played on the band’s legendary, game changing debut, Scum.
But on Scum’s follow-up, From Enslavement To Obliteration, Embury made an indelible, four string dint in one of grindcore’s defining moments, a cornerstone of extreme music that is engraved in the hearts of fans worldwide.
And he’s been anchoring Napalm Death ever since, from the death metal-inspired days of Harmony Corruption and Utopia Banished, through the more experimental mid-90s era, to the departure and subsequent return of vocalist Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway, to their turbulent split with Earache and the incredible creative surge of the last decade, which brought us the spectacular Utilitarian and Apex Predator – Easy Meat albums.
Napalm Death returned in February with the Logic Ravaged by Brute Force EP, featuring a cover of Sonic Youth’s White Kross.
And a new album, entitled Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism is scheduled for release on September 28 via Century Media – frankly, we can’t wait.
You can check out the first single Backlash Just Because – and a banger from 2015’s Apex Predator below…
Back in 1993, Embury and Napalm Death guitarist Mitch Harris, with Obituary’s Donald Tardy and Trevor Peres, served up Meathook Seed’s Embedded LP – a bold experiment in industrialised death metal.
An early indication of Embury’s penchant for the extreme metal supergroup, it sat with the likes of Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine as an example of early 90s, cybernetic death.
A line-up change later and Meathook Seed were back in 1999 for B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth), with Embury once again letting his four string rumble do some serious damage.
Blood From The Soul
We did mention that our Shane is partial to a bit of US hardcore, didn’t we? Well in 1993 he partnered with Lou Koller, frontman with NYHC legends Sick Of It All for one-off project, Blood From The Soul.
Hammering out dark hardcore with a strong industrial coating, Blood From The Soul’s music bore all of Embury’s hallmarks – and the collaboration’s only album, To Spite The Gland That Bleeds, is a bit of a hidden gem.
Little Giant Drug
Embury and Mitch Harris indulged their shared love of the 4AD label – home to the Cocteau Twins, Pixies et al – with the Little Giant Drug project. Prism Cast, recorded between the recording and mixing of Napalm Death’s ’96 album Diatribes, was the result – a dreamy opus which showed the lighter side of the duo’s songwriting.
Featuring singer Simon Orme, the album was released in 1998 on ORG. That’s not the end of the story though, as it has just been made available on Bandcamp! Check it out here.
If there was an extreme metal fantasy league, this dream team would be a true transfer budget-breaker.
The original Lock Up line-up of Embury, Hypocrisy vocalist Peter Tägtgren, Napalm Death guitarist Jesse Pintado and Brit omni-drummer Nick Barker (Cradle Of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, etc etc), hurled a petrol bomb in the face of nu-metal with 1999’s death/grind onslaught Pleasures Pave Sewers, and since then the band have gifted us a further three full-lengths and even a live collection.
Tomas ‘Tompa’ Lindberg, screamer with At The Gates, The Crown and Disfear, and Criminal’s Anton Reisenegger have added further spice to the continent-crossing line-up along the way, and Lock Up’s last studio album, Demonization, even saw Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp pick up the mic from Lindberg.
But whoever has accompanied him, Embury has always been there, tearing up his bass frets and reminding us of the searing power of hyper blasting, no-compromise grind.
Embury joined machete-wielding Mexican narco deathsters Brujeria in time for their 1993 debut, Mantando Gueros and seems to have had a lot of fun playing his masked alter ego, Hongo.
Over the course of four albums he has anchored the Trump-baiting desperados’ attack, contributing both bass and guitars to the punishing mix. And in 2016, his songwriting poured rocket fuel into Brujeria’s first studio album in 16 years, Pocho Aztlan.
Along the way, he’s been accompanied by some of the biggest names in extreme metal, including EL Cynico (Jeff Walker of Carcass), Hongo Jr (that man Barker again), and Asesino and Greñudo (Fear Factory’s Dino Cazeres and Raymond Herrera).
Viva Mexico, viva Brujeria y viva Hongo!
Yet another supergroup! For Insidious Disease’s 2010 debut, Shadowcast, Embury hurled himself into a blood-spattered, death metal maelstrom alongside Dimmu Borgir guitarist Silenoz, former Nile and Angelcorpse drummer Tony Laureano, ex-Morgoth vocalist Marc Grewe and Old Man’s Child axe slinger Jardar.
And fans of the project will be pleased to know that Insidious Disease – freshly signed to Nuclear Blast – will be back this year with a new album, After Death.
Influenced by the likes of Judas Priest, Dio and Accept, Absolute Power revelled in classic metal heroics and have thus far released one, self-titled album, which hit the shelves in 2011.
Embury, plus Mitch Harris, ex-Benediction drummer Ian Treacy and Danmaku guitarist Paul Harrrington were joined here by Russ Russell and Simon Efemey, more noted for their production work but moonlighting in Absolute Power as guitarist and singer.
We’re sure the boys had a lot of fun with this one!
Napalm Death + Brutal Truth x Poison Idea = Venomous Concept. This collab, inspired in music (and in name) by Portland’s finest punk rock band, have spat their way through three albums (2004’s Retroactive Abortion, 2008’s Poisoned Apple and 2016’s Kick Me Silly – VC III), giving us some brain spattering, ass-kicking HC in the process.
Embury has played both guitar and bass for Venomous Concept, and swings his axe alongside Kevin Sharp, Napalm Death drummer Danny Herrera, Nuclear Assault and Brutal Truth bassist Dan Lilker (who replaced The Melvins‘ Buzz Osbourne), and Corrupt Moral Altar guitarist John Cooke (who, incidentally, also plays live guitar for Napalm Death).
Venomous Concept will release their fourth full-length, Politics Versus The Erection, on August 28 via Season Of Mist.
The brainchild of Mitch Harris, Menace hurtled into prog metal territory with the 2014 album, Impact Velocity, this project’s only release to date.
Harris brought in his pal Shane for Menace, alongside a slew of metal veterans including former Hate Eternal and Malevolent Creation drummer Derek Roddy and ex-DragonForce and current Kreator bassist Frédéric Leclercq.
Born To Murder The World
It was always going to happen. The match made in Brummie heaven of Shane Embury and Anaal Nathrakh guitarist Mick Kenney unleashed a nuclear firestorm when they teamed up for Born To Murder The World.
Joined by Fukpig vocalist Drunk, the pair released The Infinite Mirror Of Millennial Narcissism in 2018 on Embury’s own Extrinsic Recordings, and promptly burst thousands of eardrums with a rabid, blackened death grind onslaught.
A cosmic exploration of extreme metal, psych and avant-garde sonics, Tronos’s 2019 debut, Celestial Mechanics, had more in common with Killing Joke than Nasum.
Embury partnered with long-time collaborator Russ Russell for this one, with the pair contributing both vocals and guitars to the project.
Powered by Megadeth drummer Dirk Verbeuren, Celestial Mechanics also features the vocal talents of Voivod’s Denis ‘Snake’ Belanger and The Wonder Stuff’s Erica Nockalls (who also plays violin with The Proclaimers) – as well as a trio of legendary bassists: that man Lilker again, Faith No More’s Billy Gould and Mastodon’s Troy Saunders.
It’s one hell of a ride, with one hell of a line-up.
Dark Sky Burial
…which brings us up to date. Embury has been working on Dark Sky Burial, off and on, for two decades, but it was only in April that the project’s debut album, De Omnibus Dubitandum Est, finally came into being.
Recorded at his home studio and mastered by Russ Russell, De Omnibus Dubitandum Est is a complete diversion from blastbeats and scorched earth riffing. Instead, Dark Sky Burial explores ambient sonic textures and disorientating electronic dimensions, and represents a “kind of therapy” for the mastermind behind it.
“As a very young kid I was obsessed with recording TV themes on my tape recorder, which always baffled my friends,” says Embury. “Since the early ‘90s I’ve wanted to get into making loop-based stuff – soundtrack-inspired music, I guess.
“This is my first step on a different path.”
Check out Dark Sky Burial on Bandcamp here.
Well, where do we start?
There are the host of demos he appeared on back in the 80s, with the likes of Drop Dead, Azagthoth and Intestinal Infestation.
Plus, Ginger, frontman of The Wildhearts, brought Embury in on bass for his noisy Mutation project; he is in grind outfit War Of The Second Dragon with John Cooke and Drunk; he has collaborated with Dirk Verbeuren as part of Bent Sea; he plays in multinational grind unit Hicks Kinison; he’s worked with Cancer’s John Walker (and Nick Barker) in prog death band Liquid Graveyard; and he teamed up with Dan Lilker and Brutal Truth drummer Scott Lewis in industrial project Malformed Earthborn.
Given Embury’s seemingly endless creative zeal, we’re sure there’ll be much more to come…
*Post updated August 2020.