Napalm Death | ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’
Album Of The Month February 2015
Reading reviews can be boring.
Let’s give the above statement a bit of context: as much as most people like to think that they’re ‘disconnected’ from what’s going on in the world of popular culture, you can often find the same people raving about an album that’s been universally lauded among whatever version of the music press that they choose to follow.
A perfect example is Ghost circa ‘Opus Eponymous.’ I remember various metal and non metal heads going on about how brilliant a record it was. Fast forward to 2015, and ‘Opus Eponymous’ can be regularly found in second hand shops (both CD and vinyl, in case you were wondering).
Ultimately, it’s human nature. People do want to feel connected in some shape or form, and music is often the perfect way for that. As a result, it means that critics are often reluctant to actually say anything vaguely negative about the band. And reading multiple reviews saying “This rocks” “If it ain’t broke…” can be incredibly boring.
As the much maligned Dom Lawson once wrote: “Of course, there are times when magazines will ensure that an album gets a positive review because, and this is the important bit, the general consensus among critics and fans alike seems to be that the record in question is an absolute belter. No one wants to be the magazine to get it wrong – remember Kerrang’s 2K review of Machine Head’s Through The Ashes Of Empires? – and so a bit of common sense never goes amiss.”
As you can see from his given example, that’s a problem.
Reginald C. Dennis (famous hip hop writer) hit the nail on the head when he said “I believed then – as I do now — that a piece of art can only achieve classic status in retrospect. How can you expect someone to receive an advance cassette of an album on a Thursday, listen to it and complete the review by the following Monday and be 100% confident that this particular record is not only better than everything out now, but will have a cultural impact that will loom over everything to come in the future? I mean that’s what we are really asking.”
Back To The Grind
However, there are cases when the praise is justified. And ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ is fully deserving of any praise thrown in it’s direction.
Common perception is that N.D lost the plot after ‘Utopia Banished’ was greeted with a lukewarm reception. Frustrated by the perception of them as “those lads with the short songs”, they experimented throughout the 90’s and returned to grind after discovering Nasum. Obviously, that’s not completely true (it’s more likely that finding themselves off Earache, who’d shelled out thousands for ‘Words From the Exit Wound’ alone, made them go back to grind a lot quicker).
But the fact is that they’ve had an incredible run from 2000’s ‘Enemy of the Music Business’ onwards. ‘Smear Campaign’ was this writer’s first N.D album purchased on the day of release. And the gig in the Limelight on that tour was incendiary. So how does ‘Apex…’ fit in this run?
The title track is an astonishing opener. The vocals are heavily treated, and give the feel of Gregorian chanting.
Noises in the background (such as the drums) add to the eerie vibe, before the vocals suddenly start sounding like a Dalek. It’s utterly bizarre, but it works. Utterly staccato. Danny Herrera channels early Swans with his slow, yet tribal, drumming. Shane Embury’s basswork grinds (once again, Swans style).
There’s a moment when you think it’s going to go into traditional N.D grind, but it leads to the vocals and music being pushed back in the mix. It’s a brilliant twist, and a sign that the listener is in for a treat.
They Screw You, Metaphorically
‘Smash a Single Digit’ PLUMMETS. Utterly manic, with blast beats galore. The few seconds of clean vocals from Barney Greenway offer a little respite for the listener. ‘Metaphorically Screw You’ carries on in the same vein, with the drums actually sounding like a drone attack.
‘How The Years Condemn’ begins like classic Discharge (including d-beat) and sees Mitch Harris come in with some gloriously epic riffs (the type that Al Jourgensen has been ripping off for the last ten years).
There’s been a lot of hype about ‘Dear Slum Landlord’ online. Truthfully, it’s not as exciting as the title track, but it is a nice homage to Godflesh (the yearning yet hostile vocals, post punk influenced riff) before a pulverising hardcore riff brings us back into familiar (and very welcome) territory.
Like 2012’s ‘Utilitarian’, it’s a simple case of the band still being able to write utterly amazing songs that knocks the stuffing out of the listener, but tweaking the formula ever so slightly just to give it a different feel.
And because the band are fervent music lovers, it never feels forced or contrived. An interview from 2005 saw them talking about getting Mark E. Smith in to do vocals. That’s something you can imagine working perfectly within the context of Napalm’s music.
To use Reginald C. Dennis’ standards:
– Yes, ‘Apex…’ is better than every other grind release out there at the moment.
– I’m not sure if it will have a cultural impact (Napalm already did that around ‘Scum’ and ‘F.E.T.O’), but it certainly consolidates their position as the daddies of grind. And if it gets more people into the band and seeing them live, then yes, it will have a cultural impact.
This will be a difficult one to follow up, but the lads have done it before so don’t bet against them topping this record. But, for the mean time, album of the year (so far).
4.5/5 – Christopher Owens ::: 01/02/15