With the majority of the metal old guard in their twilight years, occasionally releasing a lacklustre new album that fans are determined to like despite it not being a patch on the classics, one band that has steadfastly refused to lapse into mediocrity is grindcore originators Napalm Death. Over the course of thirty odd years they have consistently remained ahead of the pack, with natural evolution in their songwriting ensuring they remain thrillingly relevant. With the world in 2015 still looking like a shitty place, the time could not be better for the brummie legends to drop their fifteenth full-length release “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” on our unsuspecting heads.
Continuing the rich vein of form they have enjoyed since “Enemy of the Music Business” detonated on a stagnant extreme metal scene back in 2000, “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” is a furious, vitriol-filled album chock full of righteous anger, utterly savage riffs n’ blasts and the occasional swerve into left-field territory to ensure that this isn’t just another route-one grind album. This is demonstrated by the tribal, post-punk weirdness of the title track that opens the album which unsettles and enthrals in equal measure before the furious 90-second onslaught that is ‘Smash a Single Digit’ announces itself in a flurry of harrowing screams and gut-pummelling blasts, soon followed by the devastating wall of noise that is ‘Metaphorically Screw You’ which alternates between mutated thrash and d-beat to ruinous effect.
Listing every song would be pointless as many do follow the same formula that has served the band so well over the years, and with the vast majority clocking in at less than three minutes, they are over before you know it, leaving you utterly spent. There are a few noticeable highlights however such as the eerie, atonal melodies that form the background of the punky battering of ‘Stubborn Stains’ while the utterly stark Swans worship of ‘Dear Slum Landlord’ – written about the 2013 Savar building collapse in 2013 which left 1000 factory worshippers dead is a reminder that Napalm Death have their fingers firmly on the pulse. Elsewhere the stomping riff, gang-shouts and blistering sheets of noise of ‘Stunt Your Growth’ are the soundtrack to a squat party being raided by the fuzz. For the most part however, we get a selection of short n’ sweet rippers that will cause sheer carnage in the pit when played live – the likes of ‘Cesspits’, ‘Bloodless Coup’ and ‘One-Eyed’ are already classics.
It goes without saying that each member of the quartet is at the utter peak of their powers throughout the forty-minute running time. Mitch Harris just keeps grinding out riffs that cover the spectrum of grind, death metal, hardcore punk and occasionally something stranger that lodge in your head for days, while his utterly feral backing screams would give Gaahl nightmares. Shane Embury and Danny Herrera are still one of the finest rhythm sections in the game today, locked into a furiously tight groove that has more fun than it rightly should while Barney Greenway remains as pissed-off and hoarse of throat as he ever has.
While some may still crave the 30-second bursts of noise that characterised the bands’ early work, the reality is that the modern day Napalm Death are utterly untouchable, both in their personal integrity and commitment to writing forward-thinking extreme metal that encourages the listener to think for themselves, and crucially, reminds them that this kind of music has a future. They will never sell out, they will never let you down and they will never stop being brilliant.