D-Beat Mondays: Discharge (The origin of the d-beat)

discharge see nothing cover

It was only a matter of time before D-Beat Mondays honed in on the United Kingdom’s genre-defining, d-beat punk band, Discharge. Originally taking form in the late 70s, Discharge would play a seminal role in the development of the d-beat punk genre along with fellow second wave UK hardcore punk acts and first generation d-beat practitioners such as The Varukers and Amebix. Although Motörhead and other 70s rock and metal bands had hinted at d-beat structure and guitar presence, it was the onset of these UK bands in the early 80s that would strip down and solidify this sub-genre of punk that remains relevant and evolving through present day.

Discharge‘s influence on modern heavy or extreme music is almost immeasurable and cannot be overstated. Formative and now legendary grindcore, powerviolence, hardcore and metal bands have long cited Discharge‘s impact on the overarching soundscapes that swept through influence bases of innumerable bands all the way from Napalm Death to Metallica.

Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing

We decided to feature the 1982 release, Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, which almost over-night spawned the Swedish ‘dis’ phase of enthusiastic peers and gave the genre a foundation long before ‘d-beat’ was even near a household term in the punk community. Although often noted for a ‘minimalist’ approach, which is accurate in certain aspects, this album also introduced an apocalyptic guitar presence that was ground-breaking, emphasized with pick-scrapes and varying techniques and sounds that were almost unheard of at the time. This apocalyptic, or broadly dark presence has been adopted by countless bands across punk scenes that span continents and now decades.

The D-beat Drum Beat Is Introduced

It should also be noted, the placement of the d-beat drum beat does not sit comfortably like a normal 4/4 or two-step beat. A d-beat hits accents before the 1-count, giving it a rushed feel and when played correctly, a polyrhythmic underbelly. The subsequent guitar picking placements may be stripped down, but are executed with a unique structure and drive that is far from simple. D-beats are often poorly imitated and repeatedly miscited, miscredited, and misunderstood- A true d-beat structure is a thing to behold and modern day boundary pushers like Ben Koller (Converge, All Pigs Must Die), Chris Maggio (ex-Trap Them) and predecessors in His Hero Is Gone, Doom, Antisect, Wolfbrigade, Slayer, Tragedy, The Accüsed, Gism, and more, are all are direct descendants of the Discharge sound.


DischargeHear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing (1982)

What exactly is a ‘d-beat’?

Brian Roe of The Varukers explains and performs the original d-beat drum beat.

Interesting side note on The Varukers & Discharge history: Garry Malloney who played drums on Discharge‘s Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, had played drums in The Varukers before joining Discharge. Brian Roe (Brains), who is featured below, joined The Varukers as Malloney‘s replacement. While there is nearly an entire of school of drumming dedicated to the evolution of d-beat structures, the beat Brian demonstrates below is the original, classic d-beat. Enjoy.

Words by Joshua Cohen

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