We live in a world of offices, constant pettiness and ingrained drudgery – and that’s if we’re even lucky enough to have a job.
This album is the absolute antidote to all of it.
A violent, vitriolic rejection of conformism and the daily grind.
Or at least that’s what it feels like to me. And for that I cant be without it.
Explaining what makes it so good, or even so different from many other Napalm Death albums isn’t necessarily easy.
Because it’s not like Napalm Death hadn’t breathed fire down the neck of the establishment before: they’d already done it a hundred times by the release of this album in 2000.
Yet the ferocity of this album is still so surprising and unexpected as to knock you for six almost every single time.
It must be said they were sounding somewhat tired on 1998’s ‘Words From The Exit Wound’.
They’d spent the 90s trying variations on the death metal, grind and then groove fusion, with greater and lesser degrees of success.
You get the sense with this album though that they just got their anger back; they found once again the things that made them incandescently angry, and just let rip.
Taste The Poison
The massive anger of opener ‘Taste The Poison’ doesn’t come at its explosive beginnging, as you might think.
It takes right until the chorus, when a riff that could almost be described as beautiful soars from their guitars: uplifing, somehow above the grind, beyond the anger, almost in a moment of sublime exhalation after uncontrollable violence.
In that moment, right at the start of this album, they sum up the rest of it. It is a rush of endorphins.
Not since Pete Sandoval on Morbid Angel’s ‘Formulas…’ a year or two previously had drumming of the calibre of ‘Constitutional Hell’ been heard.
I think we all know by now that there are blastbeats and there are blastbeats; those that are there to fill space and those that are there to destroy the opposition and flatten argument.
The sheer speed and controlled intensity of Danny Herrera’s playing on this track, with that classic Sandoval dry snare tone, is an exercise in absolute devastation.
And remarkably, the whole album goes like this.
It never lets up. Ever.
Classic Napalm Death – but more so
‘Volume Of Neglect’ for example is in many ways classic Napalm Death, with that thick pulsation and acceleration into blasts, the locked focus giving way to unleashed chaos.
It just speaks to me as one of the ultimate expressions of what extreme metal is supposed to be about.
We all know that death metal nowadays is almost devoid of any anger, empty of agenda. If you think your favourite death metal album is heavy, stick it on after this. It’ll sound limp.
Grindcore’s Billy Bragg
It means something when Barney Greenway gulders ‘thanks for fucking nothing‘ down his mic before an outraged blastbeats comes in behind him.
Because frankly, he’s the Billy Bragg of extreme metal. His words matter, his thoughts matter, this band’s expression MATTERS.
The reason it matters is because it’s the sound of a rejection; rejecting unsatisfactory politick, neo-liberal excess, drone-worker alienation, and for them, the emptiness of the music business.
They got the title right. This album DOES sound like an enemy of the music business.
Because it is the sound of a band unbound, pissing on the normal way of things, angry, outraged, and saying it loudly, fastly, explosively, violently and confrontationally in a way that in all likelihood quite scares the record company staff who run many metal labels.
A Necessary Evil
So for that reason alone, you need to hear the chainsaw attack of ‘Necessary Evil’, the bloodthirsty death metal snap and grind of ‘Can’t Play, Won’t Play’ and the white heat blast frenzy of ‘C.S.’.
It goes without saying that legions of Napalm Death fans cling to ‘Scum’, ‘Harmony Corruption’ and ‘Utopia Banished’. All fair enough.
And, oddly, it could also be fair to say that this album has even been bettered in 2012’s absolutely astonishing ‘Utilitarian’.
I will always reach for this one, though. It was the sound of a band totally reinvigorated at the time. And it continues to provide a reminder to me of why I got into this music in the first place: namely that’s its about giving voice to all the stuff you cant do in a normal polite society.
Fucked off with the hollow meaninglessness of your eight to six? Stick this on and make it all better.
Until tomorrow, anyway.
– Earl Grey ::: 15/08/15