U.K. grindcore champs NAPALM DEATH have dashed like unfatigued workhorses through the first twelve of their now fifteen albums. Yet no one is infallible, and the band has had its share of trials and sorrows in the time between 2006's "Smear Campaign" and the release of their latest slab, "Apex Predator - Easy Meat". In the four albums sent out during this pock of time (including "Time Waits for No Slave" and "Utilitarian"), NAPALM DEATH have given themselves about three years between each, prompting concerns from their audience .
Having seen the passing of two former members, Jesse Pintado and Phil Vane, and recently guitarist Mitch Harris's announcement that he would be taking a hiatus for personal reasons, many questions surround NAPALM DEATH. The band asserts Harris is still a full-time member (they once gave bassist Shane Embury some needed downtime), and thus it's all systems go with interim touring guitarist John Cooke (CORRUPT MORAL ALTAR) until Harris is ready to rejoin.
Of the album, vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway has stated, "…we've been recording it in segments to try and achieve varying types of sonic assault". He's also said in a separate interview, "Some of the sounds that we use are deliberately designed to annoy people: no question". In other words — fans, don't overthink or concern yourselves.
"Apex Predator - Easy Meat" was inspired by the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh a few years ago in which roughly a thousand people were killed in the collapse of a nine-story factory. A gruesome topic for a gruesome album, and it's as heavy and relentless as anything NAPALM DEATH's put out.
Greenway's low-throated monotone chanting on the title track sets "Apex Predator - Easy Meat" on a shivery and momentarily weird course amidst an industrial clanging tempo, disturbed vocal chaws, plus escalating riffs. "Smash a Single Digit" then spurts like a violent alien chest burster, screaming, crunching and ultimately settling for a moshing finish after ripping NAPALM DEATH's sound space to shreds. Following is the smarmy "Metaphorically Screw You", on which Danny Herrera drives his mates with the propulsions of his rocketing heels. The mincing riffs follow suit with each tempo variation, which weave back and forth in velocity. Mark Greenway ralphs all over the thing and at this point it's a marvel he has any tissue left in his esophagus. All these years, he's still voluble, still brackish, still over-the-edge. Greenway will nudge you down to your knees on "Beyond the Pale", proving time and again he's one of the best screamers in metal history.
The clobbering beat and Shane Embury's pitching bass on the hardcore-driven "How the Years Condemn" is just massive. A shit ton of hardcore parts get shoved into this album, including "Cesspits", "Timeless Flogging", "Bloodless Coup" and "Heirarchies". As ever, NAPALM DEATH's punk chunks are just as treasured as their thrashes and grinds. Though "Stubborn Stains" delivers an off-kilter sensation with vertigo-inducing chords and a tempo played sloppily behind the beat (no doubt on purpose), another hardcore stomp emerges in tandem with the raining grind parts.
"Dear Slum Landlord…" will go down as one of the most memorable NAPALM DEATH songs in recent years, due to Greenway's dull-pitched condemnations and a shambling groove that grows more intense as the guitar layers are dumped upon the track. It's a shortie and it never speeds off, but "Dear Slum Landlord…" leaves its spiteful mark nevertheless. The reeling riffs and blitzing rhythms of "Bloodless Coup", "One-Eye" and "Heirarchies" are all devastating right up to their tail-spinning outros. For a band that habitually operates within one-to-three minutes per song, it's outstanding they can blow a 5:17 closer, "Adversarial/Copulating Snakes", to smithereens in a vicious, mostly fast finale. Even the crawling final two minutes feels like oppression instead of respite.
The longer NAPALM DEATH continues on, the more they dabble and reduce their full-speed onslaught (somewhat), but what this means is better-fleshed, even harder material that engages and digs instead of merely trouncing their listeners. That being said, there are still very few bands who can out-grind NAPALM DEATH. "Apex Predator - Easy Meat" was well worth the wait.