(TheMadIsraeli reviews the new album from Napalm Death.)
“We Simply Will Not Acknowledge What We Choose Willingly To Ignore”
These potent words are the first spoken on Napalm Death’s new opus Utilitarian. They’re a fitting intro to another sonic napalm run brought to you with only the most intense of politically charged vitriol.
Napalm Death are my favorite extreme band of any sort who have a heavy focus on politics besides Dying Fetus. To say that I’ve been anticipating this album is an understatement. To say I was prepared for what awaited me, as I thought I was, would be wrong — a delusional and oft-repeated stupid fucking mistake that resulted in having my jugular ripped out (a common mistake when it comes to these guys).
You may know I usually review grindcore albums in brief “x-treme” style, and I usually do so because it fits the music. However, to treat a Napalm Death album this way would be missing the point entirely, and would under-value the music itself — a sound that has become much more than their grindcore origins.
The sentence quoted above comes from the album’s opening track, a largely instrumental song entitled “Circumspect” that evokes a feeling of lumbering doom. Such an intro does not adequately prepare the listener for the rest of the album by any means: “Errors in the Signals” immediately lashes out like a pack of hyenas with late-stage rabies, fitted with dogs-of-war collars.
The elements in this song and most that follow should be nothing new to anyone who is a loyal legionnaire of the Napalm Army, but it’s no less enjoyable for that. Barney Greenway’s nasty-as-fuck vocals, which sound like a bear dying of benedictine convulsions; Mitch Harris’s grimy riffs and glass-shattering shrieks; Shane Embury’s stone-wall bass; and Danny Harerra’s chaotic, not quite in-the-pocket drumming — all have been the trademark foundations of the band since The Code Is Red…. Napalm Death, like many other long running bands, seem to have found their sound and made the decision to stick with it (or maybe this is just another phase in their ever-evolving art of fucking modern political conjecture in the face with a soldering iron).
Simply put, it’s the sound of a government overthrow. The chaos of such an event is channeled perfectly on Utilitarian; the album paints pictures of a citizenry subjected to copious incidents of police brutality while taking out as many of the authoritarian pigs as they possibly can. Such moments are brought viscerally to life in such moments as the fucking random-ass sax solo in “Everyday Pox”, which sounds like the screams of tortured uncooperatives, or the more retro-punk approach of “The Wolf I Feed”, which features Barney doing . . . clean vocals? AND IT WORKS?! Because, really, this band does no wrong.
I can’t find any info at the time of this writing about who provides the oddly punk/hardcore-sounding vocals on the track, although I suspect it may simply be Mitch Harris adopting a different voice. Either way, it lends the song a nice individual edge that causes it to stand out from the rest of the album.
Other moments recall the more death-metal intensive ways of Harmony Corruption. Songs such as “Fall On Their Swords” and “Collision Course” remind me of numbers from those days with riffs of a chunkier sort. The best example of one of these songs, however, is the closer “Gag Reflex”. Totally old school.
Napalm Death have once again brought the feral ferocity in spades.
Do you want to hear the sound of riots, Molotov cocktails raining from the sky, and cannibals eating their own flesh?
If so, this album is for you.
Fuck authority figures, fuck the police, fuck the government: A powerful and agreeable sentiment translated into audio.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Utilitarian is out now on Century Media Records. The cover artwork was created by the Danish artist Frode Sylthe, who is also responsible for the cover of rEVOLVEr by The Haunted. You can find a four-part, track-by-track analysis of the album created by the band at the Century Media YouTube channel, and you can find the band’s official web page here.
Now, here’s the band’s official video (shot and edited by Mitch Harris) for the song “Analysis Paralysis”: