Napalm Death Is Still Grindcore’s Apex Predator
Napalm Death is more than a band, they’re an institution. Napalm Death was formed in 1981 and released their first studio album Scum in 1987, nearly thirty years ago. Numerous early line up changes led to the formation of several other legacy acts in extreme music. They hold the Guinness Book of World Records record for shortest song with the one-second long “You Suffer”. By some accounts, Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury can even be credited with the creation of the name grindcore. In recent years Napalm Death has collaborated on split albums with other well recognized acts like Converge and Insect Warfare. Apex Predator – Easy Meat is their fifteenth studio album. It’s also the first great heavy metal album of 2015.
Why do I say this album is great rather than just good? It exemplifies musicianship between both its individual members and the cohesion of its parts. It finds what it does well, and it does that but isn’t afraid to step outside of its comfort zone, either. It is the right length and leaves the listener craving more. It doesn’t rest on its laurels, riding on past accomplishments and churning out another cookie cutter album that has been done before. Most importantly, though, it has that that special something that transcends definition. I knew the record had that intangible quality the first time I played it through. And the second. And the third. This record has it. This record has meaning. This record matters.
Apex Predator is a forty minute onslaught. The self titled opening track is a call to arms via a robotic Godflesh shake and repeated shouts of the album’s title at the track’s close. This is the first clue that Napalm Death are completely comfortable stepping out of the grindcore structure they helped design and construct. Although, the most recent addition to this Napalm Death lineup (drummer Danny Herrera) joined back in 1991, on Apex Predator they sound like a young band hitting new heights. On the album’s second track, “Smash A Single Digit” Napalm Death play grind like the band the subgenre was coined after, never afraid to show finesse via sleight of hand, either. One of the more interesting elements of this album, though, is that melodies emerge from the grind like burned survivors crawling out from the remains of a scorched earth bombing campaign. Although it happens multiple times throughout the record, “Barney” Greenway’s hardcore shouts and death growls morph into bellows reminiscent of Swans’ Michael Gira most prominently “Dear Slum Landlord.”
For all its progressiveness, though, Apex Predator also routinely displays what makes this band such a genre staple in the first place. The aforementioned “Dear Slum Landlord” points towards Napalm Death’s politics, as do tracks like “Bloodless Coup” and “Hierarchies.” After all of this time, the band seems just as charged in their political views, and continue to churn out some of the most progressive lyrics in metal. Going blow for blow with the stalwart lyrics is the unrelenting grind element that has always been this band’s bread and butter. Track after track pummels you in a welcome and familiar way, but there are little interesting flourishes here and there. “Hierarchies” opens on riffs which lean more thrash than grind, and features a cleanly sung chorus from said hierarchies’ perspective – we spilled the blood of innocents – in between growls on destruction and a very well placed solo near the end of the song.
Overall, this album is consistently good from start to finish. Just as the title track launched the record into full-throttle with a bizarre and off-kilter martial aggression, “Adversarial – Copulating Snakes,” the album closer, finishes the fight with all the prowess and deadly violence of a decorated veteran. At over five minutes, it’s half frenetic grind and half slow-march breakdown. It is the trumpet that signals victory at the end of a conflict.
If there is anything about this album I don’t like, it’s the title. Apex Predator – Easy Meat is unwieldy as an album title, and made worse by the dash in the center of it. It’s a terrible title. That’s a minor gripe for an otherwise unflushable album.
On an advance single from this album, “How The Years Condemn,” Greenway screams we’re not invincible, which seems hard to believe. On Apex Predator, Napalm Death defy those lyrics. This band seems invincible, and ageless, and timeless. This is one of their finest works. Long live Napalm Death.
Napalm Death kicks off their tour with Voivod, Exhumed, Iron Reagan, and Black Crown Initiate tonight in Miami.
1/27/2015 Miami, FL Grand Central*
1/28/2015 St Petersburg, FL State Theater*
1/29/2015 Atlanta, GA Masquerade*
1/30/2015 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy’s*
1/31/2015 Baltimore, MD Soundstage*
2/2/2015 New York, NY Gramercy Theater*
2/3/2015 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer*
2/4/2015 Toronto, ON Opera House
2/5/2015 Ottawa, ON Maverick’s
2/6/2015 Montreal, QC Club Soda
2/7/2015 Worcester, MA Palladium*
2/8/2015 Poughkeepsie, NY The Chance Theater*
2/9/2015 Cleveland, OH Agora Ballroom*
2/10/2015 Chicago, IL Reggie’s*
2/11/2015 Minneapolis, MN Amsterdam*
2/12/2015 Winnipeg, MB The Zoo
2/13/2015 Regina, SK The Exchange
2/14/2015 algary, AB Republik
2/15/2015 Edmonton, AB Starlite Room
2/17/2015 Vancouver, BC Rickshaw Theater**
2/18/2015 Seattle, WA Studio 7 #
2/19/2015 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theater
2/20/2015 Oakland, CA Metro ##
2/21/2015 Fresno, CA Strummers ##
2/22/2015 Los Angeles, CA House Of Blues
2/23/2015 Tempe, AZ Club Red ##
2/24/2015 Albuquerque, NM Sunshine Theater ##
2/25/2015 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall ##
2/26/2015 Lawrence, KS Granada Theater ##
2/27/2015 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey ##
2/28/2015 Houston, TX Fitzgerald’s ##
* = RINGWORM