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Napalm Death: Utilitarian

Who would have believed that Napalm Death would still be producing powerful albums after all these years? Aren't metal bands from the 80s supposed to burn out, break up, and fall apart, only later to discover their love of music, their fans, and their tour schedules? That's the plot many of us are used to, but Napalm Death doesn't really fit into any familiar story arcs. After all, they aren't the typical heavy metal band. For most fans, Napalm Death lies at the head of Grindcore, that punk-infused style of heavy metal that is still a creative and exciting musical movement. Sure, there aren't any founding members left in Napalm Death, but as long as the band exists and produces strong and uncompromising music, who cares? Utilitarian, their 15th release is unrelenting, aggressive, and disturbing--just what fans have come to expect. Even better, Utilitarian offers listeners 17 new tracks, none of which feel like throwaway tracks or filler. I've been listening to this album constantly over several days now and I like it more and more.

Utilitarian begins powerfully, with a fairly calm, yet gloomy, instrumental track called "Circumspect" that lays down the mood for the rest of the album. It serves up a strong drum line and a low-end guitar riff that hint at the punk-inspired riffs to come. After "Circumspect," things speed up and rarely slow down for the rest of the album. For me, the best songs on the album were in the first half, particularly "Errors in the Signals," "The Wolf I Feed," "Protection Racket," and "Fall on Their Swords." Check out the nearly Viking-metal sound of the chorus of male voices in "Fall on Their Swords." Is Napalm Death trying to sound epic? I doubt it, but the sound on this track is captivating and powerful. Even better, listeners should definitely listen to the tension the band creates on "The Wolf I Feed," a song that surely speaks to the old idea that our characters are formed by what "wolf" we feed through our actions. For this album, I think the point is supposed to be apocalyptic--the world is a violent, insane, place, one almost impossible to understand. Some wolves are always hungry.

I'm sure that one of the most talked-about parts of Utilitarian will be the saxophone solo by John Zorn on "Everyday Pox." The sound it creates is akin to a futile scream, a plea to be heard in a world of absolute chaos. The solo sounds improvised, but this isn't an attempt to create a hybrid of metal and jazz. No, this solo is about the brutal and terrifying, the hopeless and the downtrodden. "Collision Course" reminds us more than once that "death will take us all in the end." If you need further proof, check out the album's cover art where a team of corporate-looking guys are kicking a defenseless man. This is a record about such moments of helpless despair, a realization that life is sometimes brutal and desperate.

Track Listing:
1. Circumspect
2. Errors in the Signals
3. Everyday Pox
4. Protection Racket
5. The Wolf I Feed
6. Quarantined
7. Fall on their Swords
8. Collision Course
9. Orders of Magnitude
10. Think Tank Trials
11. Blank Look About Face
12. Leper Colony
13. Nom De Guerre
14. Analysis Paralysis
15. Opposites Repellent
16. A Gag Reflex
17. Everything in Mono

Added: April 13th 2012
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2652
Language: english

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Napalm Death: Utilitarian
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-04-13 20:20:16
My Score:

If there's any doubt that Napalm Death is one of the most consistent forces in the world of extreme metal, Utilitarian is likely to silence those naysayers. With fifteen albums (as well as numerous EP's, demos, splits, and live releases) now under their belts, the latest from Napalm Death is a perfect example why this famed grindcore band from Birmingham, England is still as relevant in 2012 as they were nearly thirty years ago. Utilitarian is a downright lethal blend of death metal and grindcore, filled to the brim with crushing riffs, brutal technicality, and overwhelming amounts of rage. It's tough to imagine any Napalm Death fan being disappointed by an effort with this kind of quality, and Utilitarian currently stands as one of the year's best death metal offerings.

After an epic instrumental opening in the form of "Circumspect", the band dives straight into their bone-crushing and distinct hybrid of death metal of grindcore with the killer "Errors in the Signal". Utilitarian, like most recent Napalm Death albums, veers much closer to death metal territory than grindcore or crust punk, but there are frequent reminders that the band did start out in the eighties' as one of the earliest grindcore acts. Many of the riffs are definitely rooted in hardcore punk territory, and Barney Greenway's hostile vocal delivery just reeks of anger and raw aggression. Throughout this sixteen track album (or eighteen if you purchase the version with bonus tracks - something I highly recommend), your head will be bashed in by some extremely brutal music, but Napalm Death never forgets to keep their music memorable and exciting. Lots of variation within riff structures, tempos, and vocal delivery always keeps me on my toes, and Utilitarian is an absolute blast throughout its full duration. Not many deathgrind albums are as well-composed as what we have here - believe it or not, Utilitarian actually stands as one of Napalm Death's finest musical efforts thus far. With songs like "Errors in the Signal" and "Quarantined" (to only name two), it's hard not to be left amazed by this exceptional observation.

Utilitarian also shows Napalm Death taking a few risks musically, particularly in "Everyday Pox" where saxophone legend John Zorn delivers frantic squeaking to add to the already frenzied atmosphere. This is a damn solid album from every angle; the band is as tight as ever, the compositions are brutal yet rewarding, the production is phenomenal, and a sheer sense of unbridled energy is always present. Fans of Napalm Death are advised to head out to their local record stores and pick up a copy of Utilitarian immediately - this is yet another fantastic observation from kings of deathgrind.

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