A DUAL REVIEW: NAPALM DEATH (“LOGIC RAVAGED BY BRUTE FORCE”) / HUMAN SERPENT (“SHROUDS”)
(In this column DGR has combined reviews of two EPs, both of which are out now, one by Napalm Death and a charitable endeavor released by the Greek black metal band Human Serpent.)
NAPALM DEATH: “LOGIC RAVAGED BY BRUTE FORCE”
It’s wild to think that we’re a little over five years since the release of Apex Predator – Easy Meat, Napalm Death‘s most recent full-length album, but here we are with something new.
It’s always a bit of a struggle to review a Napalm Death disc. The band have become such a weirdly monolithic cultural force in the grind substratum of heavy metal that at this point you can almost take the band in sight unseen (or rather, sounds unheard) and know that the ever-prolific crew are going to find some way to beat your skull in. Yet across their immensely vast discography there remains a healthy bit of experimentation as the group fling themselves from the now traditional high-speed blasting grind to chunky death metal to songs with a fairly defined sense of groove to the noisier and more industrialized chaos that Apex Predator started to hint at.
Thus, the two songs on Logic Ravaged By Brute Force — released in early February — are interesting as well because it’s Napalm Death at their most “punk” in some time, even leaning hard into the echoing, effect-heavy realms of the post-genre world. Fitting, given that the second of the two songs present on Logic Ravaged By Brute Force (after the title track) is a cover of Sonic Youth‘s ‘White Kross’.
Logic Ravaged By Brute Force runs a hair over seven-and-a-half minutes, of which the most time is dedicated to the aforementioned cover. ‘White Kross’, like many of Napalm Death‘s covers, is actually played fairly straight. It’s not transformed into some ugly, blasting monster but instead feels more like Sonic Youth flattened and pressed through a Napalm Death future, granting us a brief peek into a demented alternate universe in which Napalm Death leaned heavy into alternative-rock sensibilities instead of spending a whole career attempting to collapse buildings via music.
It’s a fun trip for sure, especially when the song devolves into a wall of noise during its opening two minutes, only for the band to come fading in and out of it, like a death metal band attempting to dance between walls of feedback. ‘White Kross’ is one of those covers that surprises you with just how naturally it fits into the Napalm Death formula, especially as it fits into their chosen songwriting style of ‘beat the ever-living hell out of the instruments and listener and archive whatever leaves a bigger mess’.
The titular ‘Logic Ravaged By Brute Force’ is a punchier song by comparison and one of the more approachable songs to date. It’s actually fairly subdued in comparison to a song like “Smash A Single Digit” and is somewhat catchy for it, so that every time the song circles back around to the yell of ‘How can they justify this redemption?’ in the chorus you can’t help but get excited. The song builds and builds throughout the verses — almost literally with the sort of hammering nature the drums take on, each pulse ratcheting up the intensity — and then unleashes during that particular segment until you have the band yelling the title of the EP at you over and over to close the track.
It’s an interesting addition alongside the smattering of EPs that the band have put out since their previous full-length, but like much of Napalm Death‘s latter-day output, a little difficult to pin down in terms of where the group might be headed from here, especially since the thing the band are most known for is a ferocious intensity delivered in very short bursts and at extremely high volume.
Logic Ravaged By Brute Force is thus an interesting addition to the band’s massive collection of music and one which again shows that Napalm Death are asserting their right never to remain still. There are a few moments when you can hear a definite continuation of what the band were playing with on Apex Predator, and other times when it seems like Napalm Death wanted to hammer out something new even for themselves. At only two songs this is a quick pulse from the band, neatly bookended and pleasantly violent and also one that will slot in nicely within their big collection of noise.
HUMAN SERPENT: “SHROUDS”
Human Serpent released Shrouds in late January as a pay-what-you-want download in order to raise money for Australian wildfire relief — specifically to help out injured wildlife. The melodically inclined and fiery Greek black metal band have packed two songs onto Shrouds: “Nature’s Shroud Against Humanity” was written during the summer of 2019 and “Shrouds Of The Fall” is a piano version of a song from For I, The Misanthropist. If you’re keeping track, that means that “Nature’s Shroud Against Humanity” was written right around the time the band were also hammering away their EP The Vacuity. So although the situation that Human Serpent were hoping to highlight with the release of Shrouds may be a goddamned tragic ecological nightmare, it’s hard not to welcome another chance for the band to sandblast our faces off — even if the one song they do it with is only a minute long.
“Nature’s Shroud Against Humanity” is kind of unfair in that sense too, because it is everything that makes Human Serpent enjoyable distilled down into a one-minute blaster. It instantly grabs you and then just as quickly ends, basically wiping itself out in a sonic conflagration of its own. It is one verse with an exceedingly gnarly melodic riff and wall of sound to back it up before you drop into “Shrouds Of The Fall” — a piano version of the song “Seven Billion Slaves”.
“Shrouds of the Fall” again shows that even though Human Serpent are entirely constructed out of musical hellfire and brimstone, their ear for a melodic hook is unmatched. Even though the track is born from a meaner-than-hell song, guest musician 23 does an excellent job sitting down at the piano and making it into an earworm.
Even though we’ve been banging the drum about Human Serpent for some time, it’s always nice to put out a gentle reminder that the crew here are worthy of your time. Especially given the charitable nature of this release, you would do well for yourself to check this one out as well as their greater discography as a whole.
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I completely agree with the observation regarding the White Kross cover – it manages to be both faithful to the original while simultaneously sounding like a Napalm Death song. And it is beautiful! Looking forward to the full length!
Napalm Death is always interesting.