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NAPALM DEATH
Utilitarian


Century Media (2012)
Rating: 8.5/10


You’d be forgiven for thinking that Birmingham’s other finest have totally changed direction upon hearing ‘Circumspect’, the instrumental opener on Utilitarian, the 14th studio album of Napalm Death’s 31-year-career. However, its crusty leanings give way to ‘Errors In The Signals’, which bolts from the traps in typical Napalm fashion. So, business as usual then… and here lies both the strength and weakness in Napalm’s arsenal. Fast, furious riffing, backed by pile driver blast beats and narrated by Barney Greenway’s political vitriol, is exactly what fans have come to love and expect, but you do get the sense of dread that Napalm Death only have a few more albums left in them. However, it is to their credit that they still have the ability to evolve and remain relevant, and also to tread new ground.

‘Everyday Pox’ contains some ‘grind-sax’ courtesy of 58-year-old American avant-garde jazz punk saxophonist John Zorn (which some may argue sounds like a three-year-old having a sax tantrum), and there are elements of (whisper it) melody in songs such as ‘The Wolf I Feed’, ‘Fall On Their Swords’ and the rampaging ‘Collision Course’. In fact, it would appear that they have incorporated elements from their mid-period albums, such as 1998’s Words From The Exit Wound, and to great effect.

It’s not just the mid-paced songs that stand out either, as speed freaks will lap up the likes of ‘Think Tank Trials’, and considering he’s been blasting away for over 20 years, drummer Danny Herrera hasn’t lost any of his youthful energy. Special mention also to guitarist Mitch Harris, whose screaming backing vocals are given some prominence throughout and compliment Barney’s distinctive bark. And production wise, Napalm have never sounded more sleek courtesy of Russ Russell’s superb mix, proving that he is one of the better producers in metal at the moment.

So certainly a worthwhile addition to Napalm Death’s back catalogue, and one that fans of the Diatribes-era (1996) can take something from, as well as those whose faith was restored with the unrelenting Enemy Of The Music Business album in 2000. Unfortunately, there will always be those whose interests lie firmly in side one of the band’s 1987 debut, Scum, and still regard Mick Harris as the ‘true’ drummer for Napalm Death, who will stubbornly believe that this British institution have no place in this world. Pity them, as they’re missing out on a corker of a Napalm album… again.

Neil Not

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