Genre: Grindcore | Label: Century Media
Location: Birmingham, England| Listen: Youtube
Earlier this year, grindcore legends Napalm Death released their 15th studio album, “Apex Predator – Easy Meat.” Napalm Death have, in my opinion, always managed to put out awesome records, despite their flirtations with other genres and musical approaches. This new full length continues their current trend of infusing different influences into their grinding groundwork they first laid down back in 1987 with “Scum.”
While their 2012 album, “Utilitarian,” took a large influence from Canadian sci-fi thrashers Voivod, “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” differentiates itself by utilizing a lot of post-punk/dirge-driven parts. The obvious influence here would be the mighty Swans. Napalm Death’s infatuation with Swans goes back to the beginning of the band, and almost every album has had a song that has a clear no-wave approach. This new record has taken that approach to more than just one track, and Napalm Death proudly displays that influence right away with the opening title track. These gloomy dirges poke their head up throughout the record. “Dear Scum Landlord” even opens with the lyric “big strong boss,” which is the title of a track on the debut Swans record. No surprise that the last track of the album, “Adversarial / Copulating Snakes” fits this description as well (and is a very well done closing track too). Musical allusions aside, the tracks that display this influence are strong songs, and are the main reason why this album ends up being one of Napalm Death’s most dynamic records.
Of course, there are plenty of grinding songs on this record as well. After the intro, Napalm Death wastes no time doing what they do best – playing high speed riffs against lightning fast drums in a punk structure. Tracks like “Cesspits” show the band at full grinding speed. Granted, Napalm Death doesn’t write the same kind of grindcore that they did back in the late 80’s. There’s definitely some maturation in their approach to grind, which perhaps are learned from their death metal and groove eras in the 90s, as heard in “Timeless Flogging”. The most notable thing in that regard would be their usage of hooks. The chorus of “Smash a Single Digit” won’t take long to get stuck in your head. Shane Embury and Mitch Harris are both competent songwriters, and as the song lengths suggest, they get right to the point.
Lyrically, “Apex Predatory – Easy Meat” has a lot of what you’d expect from a grindcore band that’s been singing about socio-political themes throughout their career. Younger folks will probably find something to latch onto with songs about breaking oppression, while older headbangers might relate to a song like “How The Years Condemn” in regards to its themes of age and trying not to break down over time.
One thing I did not like about this record is the artwork and layout. It’s honestly an eyesore. The cover art is the least guilty of this, but the artwork within just seems really lame and to me feels like an overall lazy presentation. I expected a lot more considering how well the presentation of “Utilitarian” turned out, thankfully this doesn’t take away from how good the music is.
The production of this record is in line with what Napalm’s been doing the last 15 years. Handled by Russ Russell, this guy’s recorded every Napalm Death album since “Enemy of the Music Business” in addition to related projects. The sound is modern, but it’s not in modern production hell. Fans of old Napalm Death may not like how this record sounds, as it is a pretty clean recording, but at least it’s not riddled with clicky triggers everywhere.
It’s truly impressive that Napalm Death have put out so many quality records over their long career, and have managed to stay fresh while doing so. “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” stands up well against their discography. As I mentioned before, fans of exclusively old Napalm Death probably won’t find much here, but anyone who’s enjoyed recent material, or likes when the band does creepy dirge-driven songs, will get something out of this record.