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Napalm Death
Apex Predator - Easy Meat Dean Brown , January 27th, 2015 12:43

Napalm Death have had the line-up of vocalist/lyricist Mark 'Barney' Greenway, bassist Shane Embury, guitarist Mitch Harris, and drummer Danny Herrera, in place for more or less a quarter of a century now. The legendary grindcore band famed for their creation and popularisation of the most explosive metal subgenre (they were Sir John Peel's favourite band for a reason) have really been on a remarkable run of form since around 2000's Enemy Of The Music Business.

The main reason behind the creative success of subsequent albums such as Smear Campaign, Time Waits For No Slave, and Utilitarian is because Napalm, while maintaining the grinding gait founded on their establishment-baiting 1987 debut Scum, gradually introduced an experimental side into their signature sound without diluting the broiling fusion of grind, death metal and hardcore punk. The upshot of which has proven that, musically, Napalm Death seem unlikely to ever rest on their laurels – a necessary trait in a subgenre as strictly defined as grindcore, in which songs detonate and disappear in a matter of seconds, with the ringing in your ears lasting longer than the initial blast.

By playing every festival, sweaty club and bombed-out squat that would have them, this lineup – the definitive lineup – of Napalm Death quickly turned into a well-oiled machine, which has also benefited how tight their music has sounded since the beginning of the new millennium. And given how scummy, deceitful and downright fucked the world seems at the minute, Greenway's socio-political/humanitarian lyrical bent, taking well-aimed pot-shots at the oppressors, has never been more necessary as it is now: You see, we need bands like Napalm Death who avoid forcing their rhetoric down our throats, but who instead grab us by our heads and wrench open our eyes to highlight the injustices festering hideously just beneath the surface.

Because of the foregoing, Napalm Death's new album Apex Predator - Easy Meat is another essential addition to the esteemed band's lengthy discography. It once again finds the veteran four-piece in vitriolic form, striking balance between vehement musicianship and Greenway's enraged diatribes – he covers pertinent topics like human exploitation as well as other aspects of social inequality, all delivered through his expressive arsenal of enraged screams and bellows.

Instantly, Napalm Death grab our attention with the bizarre title track which opens Apex Predator - Easy Meat. Besides some prominent percussion and other layers of crafted noise, the title track is strictly centred on the monotone throat-singing and menacing screams of Greenway. It's definitely the most unorthodox inclusion here, but it makes just as much sense to the overall movement of the album as having saxophonist John Zorn let rip a hysterical, atonal guest solo on Utilitarian's 'Everyday Pox'.

Expectedly, however, Apex Predator - Easy Meat remains loaded with signature Napalm Death synapses-splattering shocks to both the physical and the political system. Brilliantly-titled songs such as 'Smash A Single Digit', 'Metaphorically Screw You, 'Stubborn Stains', 'Timeless Flogging', 'Cesspits' and 'Bloodless Coup' are all crazy fast and chaotic: viciously charging from D-beat-driven churn, to caustic blasts, to crossover thrash sprints, to crippling death metal grooves – all drilled together for high impact without a second's drag. And while the Birmingham band's 15th full-length uses those types of frenetic songs to add memory muscle to an immoveable frame, it's the tracks whereby the more atypical ideas are integrated into traditional Napalm Death tactics and not isolated on their own, that once again prove the most fascinating.  

For instance, look past the punked-up Slayer riffs of 'How The Years Condemn' and there's Voivod-ian discordance used as a dynamic. 'Dear Slum Landlord' is placed at a pivotal point during the album, slowing the velocity down to an ill tempo, with Greenway channelling Michael Gira as the chest-caving riffs bring the song to an unexpected end. There's even a hip-hop beat buried in the milieu of blasts during 'Stunt Your Growth', and some Killing Joke post-punk tribalism and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it guitar solo during 'Hierarchies'. Elsewhere, without interrupting its frightening forward attack, 'One-Eyed' sees Harris include an icy black metal riff to great effect; while as the album finishes with 'Adversarial/Copulating Snakes', Harris, Herrera and Embury coalesce together for a monstrous Celtic Frost-worthy finish – a To Mega Therion death-stomp used as a portentous punctuation mark. Once again, as you can tell, there hasn't been some reckless leftfield move from Napalm Death; they've just slightly contorted their sonic palette to keep the songwriting process exciting for themselves. By doing so, Apex Predator - Easy Meat retains the hyperactive energy and deadly pacing of its recent predecessors, and as a result, it gives their fans a diverse and devastating listening experience during what is a quintessential, zeitgeist-destroying grindcore album.