Napalm Death

Utilitarian

01. Circumspect
02. Errors In The Signals
03. Everyday Pox
04. Protection Racket
05. The Wolf I Feed
06. Quarantined
07. Fall On Their Swords
08. Collision Course
09. 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

[02/28/12]
[Century Media]

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I should probably acknowledge the fact that I’ve been harping on a lot about ‘consistency’ lately. 2012 seems to have this interesting trend whereby bigger bands are releasing albums that sound incredibly similar to their previous work with results ranging from the impressive to the slightly disappointing and while I’m not complaining, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t eagerly anticipating the first real ‘curveball’ of the year. Strangely enough, Utilitarian, Napalm Death‘s fifteenth studio outing, may be exactly what I was looking for and if I wasn’t such a godless heathen, I’d say someone was looking out for me.

Napalm’s previous journey from grindcore to death metal and then halfway back is fairly well documented, but on Utilitarian we’re starting to get a glimpse into a more experimental and progressive sound that we only saw glimpses of in it’s predecessor Time Waits For No Slave. Alongside the utterly relentless deathgrind that made the band what it is today, sits curious baritone chanting, a more widespread use of back up vocals from guitarist Mitch Harris and even a spazzy saxophone freak out courtesy of John Zorn in ‘Everyday Pox‘.

However, as is the mark of a great band, nothing ever feels needless or superfluous. Instead tracks like ‘Fall On Their Swords‘ go from rumbling Brutal Truth style grind into an atmospheric, almost-NeurIsis-esque build up effortlessly and comes off better for it. ‘Errors In The Signals‘ is another great example – a track that could easily fit in any of the last few records but still creates an identity for itself by toying with riffs that judder and groove rather than straight up grind.There are sixteen tracks here though, so for more traditional fans there’s plenty here to amuse you as well – ‘Think Tank Trials‘ is a distinctly crusty grinder that takes a look through rose tinted glasses at the early days of Extreme Noise Terror or Terrorizer and ‘Nom De Guerre‘ tears you a new one by perfecting the exact sound Trap Them had been aiming for on Seizures In Barren Praise.

Utilitarian as a whole, strikes that fine line between experimentation and fan service so well that their age is showing. Only a band with this much experience could pull off an album like this and while I probably would have been happy with a Time Waits For No Slave/Smear Campaign 2.0, it’s far more fascinating to see this forward thinking band pushing themselves musically again. Napalm Death are synonymous with grind at this point in time and while it’s an entirely different line up to their humble beginnings nearly 20 years ago, it’s great to see them still sticking up a middle finger to convention and doing things their way.

Napalm Death’s Utilitarian gets…

4.5/5

-DL

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0NqN6mGO2g&feature=relmfu]

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