3 May 2015

Napalm Death - Diatribes


Napalm Death are my absolute favourite band, so this blog should be both a pleasure and a breeze to do. It also has the potential to be slightly biased from my side as I have a tendency to give every ND album ridiculous levels of praise (Except 'Harmony Corruption' as I thought the switch to full-on Florida-style death metal wasn't too good). However, I'm going to go about this properly and leave all fanboyism at the door. We believe in unbiased reviews on this blog.

Having made their name with the groundbreaking debut 'Scum', Napalm Death then unleashed their own brand of sonic terrorism on the world. Their style of music became known as 'grindcore' which was a mixture of punk (particularly crust punk), hardcore, thrash metal and usually whatever else the protagonists could get their mitts on. It then ended up cross-pollinating with death metal which gave rise to the awesomeness of Brutal Truth and Bolt Thrower! As time went by, the genre would fragment and evolve into various other genres within the genre. So what started off as short, fast, heavy songs soon became even shorter, faster and way more abrasive, thanks to bands such as Meatshits, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Cock And Ball Torture, AxCx, stuff like that. ND started all that as 'Scum' has a song on there called 'You Suffer' which is one second long. Another characteristic was the lyrics - Napalm Death specialised in extremely sociopolitical lyrics which carried a bit more weight than usual. Of course, unless you had the lyric sheet you'd not know that as the vocals were extremely gutteral. But at least they put a bit of thought into it rather than just saying "Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me" or some other such superfical, Mallrat-inspired drek.

Things were different for Napalm Death in the early-mid-90's. A totally different line-up (None of the current members played on 'Scum' and the longest serving member is bassist Shane Embury who joined before second album 'From Enslavement To Obliteration' and has been there since), And with a different line-up came what was known as the 'experimental' period. In a nutshell, there was much less reliance on blastbeats and more on various rhythms as well as a lot more light & shade textures on songs. Song structures themselves became a bit more traditional and there were elements of industrial music creeping in (this was quite common in the 90's as practically everyone was in love with Godflesh at the time) with also a slight 'groove' influence. This split the fanbase down the middle as there were some fans who welcomed these changes and saw it as a sign of a band not wanting to rest on their laurels and some fans were pissed that the band had seemingly abandoned their grindcore roots. It never really bothered me as this was actually the first ND album I ever heard, In fact,  I only became aware of their 'grindcore'-era due to an episode of a music quiz show on TV at the time called 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' which featured Napalm Death in one of the rounds. I sharp got 'Scum' (more on that later). Anyhow, this album was given to me on a C90 (it was home-taped. That's what we did in those days instead of 'file sharing') by a lad I went to college with. I fucking loved it! The sheer energy and heaviness blew me away! It's been a staple of every mix-tape, mp3 player, iPod etc I've went through over the years. And now I'm going to review it for you - but with a critics ears, not a fanboys...

Greed Killing - And we're off! Opening with an onslaught of harsh riffs and a bouncy drum pattern, it's pretty much guarenteed to get the pit moving. Trust me, I've seen it happen. The drum beat itself is what grabs the attention. It's solid and heavy, yet not an atypical rock drum beat. It's a beat they'd utilise on other future songs ('Breed To Breathe' especially, so they got a fair bit of mileage from it. Barney's vocals sound savage enough, as do the backing shrieks by Mitch Harris.

Glimpse Into Genocide - Mid-paced verses which peter off into slow choruses and experimental fills. It's heavy in it's own way, proof that you don't need blastbeats to keep it heavy. The opening riff is quite a good one, before it goes into the mid-paced bit. Definately another good one.

Ripe For The Breaking - Well, isn't this quite the bag of grindcore liquorice allsorts? Stuttering opening before a blastbeat section that then goes off into a mid-paced section where clean guitar interchanges with distorted. Soon we're back into the blastbeats before back into the clean/distorted trade-off. Outro is another one...rumbling drums and guitars. Excellent song.

Cursed To Crawl - Interesting song - and possibly a one which may provide a bone of contention. A slow song with silent verses and loud choruses! Well, the verses are just drums and bass before everything kicks in for the chrous, Barney narrates the verses (he DOES NOT FUCKING RAP!!!) and growls the choruses. The only thing is that it gets a bit repetitive towards the end as whereas the first three songs had enough to keep them going, this one tends to run out steam before it's brought to a merciful end.

Cold Forgiveness - Slow, lumbering and discordant with a low, monotone vocal delivery. You can practically smell the Godflesh influence on this one. Which is ironic as one of the members of Godflesh - vocalist/guitarist Justin Broadrick - used to be in Napalm Death during the early days. As with the last song, I'm guessing they're trying to build soundscapes and atmosphere or something. Luckily, this song isn't as repetitive as the last one and manages to cut out while the going is good.

My Own Worst Enemy - Yes, this is more like it! As much as we loved the Godflesh tribute, it's good to get back to doing what you do best - straightforward metal. Remember - you're leaders, not followers. Spilling out like a barfight into the street with it's uncompromising rhythms and discordant choruses, we're having a good time with this one. Nice breakdown in the middle with it's groove-like rhythms. I guess this is why I liked this album back then as it sounded very close to what I was listening to at the time.

Just Rewards - Opening with a completely scatterbrained funky drum pattern that carries into the verses, it them preoceeds to another groovy breakdown! Funky drums come back and the whole thing repeats itself. It's a good song, but there are better on here.

Dogma - Another one with alternating rhythms. It seems the band really went all out to be different on this one and they've succeeded. The blastbeat is in this one, and it actually rescues the song, If it had've kept up it's current state before the switch then it wouldn't have been as good. Nevereless, it does the job.

Take The Strain - opening with minimalist riffing which is quite reminiscent of the style of Helmet, it then goes into a groove, especially towards the end. Not really much to say other than it's a really good song.

Diatribes - Going for the groove from the off before going all thrash on us. This is why the 'experimental'-era of ND shouldn't be overlooked as it had some right gems in there. Still, I guess you can't please all the people all the time,,,

Placate Sedate Eradicate - For some reason, this one reminds me of Irish band Therapy? due to the opening, and even the first few utterances. It'll be the alternative influences coming through. The bassline in this is well good! Very good indeed. The song itself is good also, Very heavy and abrasive.

Corrossive Elements - The album finisher, and it is straightahead metal. From mid-paced to groove and back. Thrashing out for a bit, it's almost another bag of allsorts. Great riffs, very ferocious.

And that, as they say, is that. Listening to this album as a critic as opposed to a fanboy has been an experience as it's made me evaluate the album on a different level. And my veridct is...it's a really good album. But it's not without it's flaws. For starters, the best songs happen to be the first three so it's quite front-loaded. The rest of the album is good but doesn't quite reach the heights of those three songs, but it does try. I can imagine that 'Cursed To Crawl' and 'Cold Forgiveness' would put a few people off - no wonder some fans didn't like it as this is the band who made it's name on hyperfast material. You cannot really compare this album to 'Scum' and 'From Enslavement To Obliteration' as they're completely different beasts (and technically, completely different bands). The best thing to do is to just listen and enjoy, and form your own opinion.

8 - Oh you have my attention, and maybe my money, time and heart.


Chris J.

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