Remember the first time you heard From Enslavement to Obliteration (Earache), the ground-breaking second album from UK grind pioneers Napalm Death? I certainly do. It was 1988, I’m there trying to grasp on to my love of loud music…and I fucking hated it. I found it laughable, and it sent me away from Metal’s harder edges for a long time. How can you identify with a five-second song, for Christ’s sake? Up to this moment, I’d never listened to another Napalm Death album.
A staggering 27 years later fifteenth album Apex Predator – Easy Meat (Century Media) hits my inbox and boy, I feel different. The angry yet tribal rhythm of the shamanic title track gives way to the pounding machine-gun rattle of ‘Smash A Single Digit’, while the powerful skewing punk of ‘Metaphorically Screw You’ ploughs an irresistible furrow. There’s display of a flexibility in pace with the initially slower ‘Dear Slum Landlord’ retaining a hefty boot with a full production and eventually exploding with euphoric ferocity. The band’s trademark veering grind is still in evidence in the speed and violent switches of ‘Cesspits’ and ‘Bloodless Coup’; while the exercise in raw bloody velocity that is ‘Stunt Your Growth’, complete with mid-point of brutal groove and a barked Barney Greenway delivery, will rip up some serious pits live.
That the band still emits a burning intensity, railing against injustice and The Establishment, is reassuring and adds the crucial element of gravity to what is, in essence, a joyous and energising sound. The beefy punk of ‘Hierarchies’ possesses choruses of near harmonised, reflective vocals and a lightning lead break to highlight the versatility. Thankfully this is followed by the frenetic bludgeon of blastbeats and the savage roars of the penultimate ‘One Eyed’, reverting back to the coruscating norm with a wonderful closing bounce that is the album’s highlight.
Me, the Napophobe? I bloody love the nose-breaking, careering chaos of it all, which would appal an old, lost friend and make a few more chuckle. I’m ashamed I’ve missed out on so much but thank God for mid-life crises, eh?….