Napalm Death. The very name is synonymous with grindcore, and for good reason. This is the band that, arguably, started it all. From Scum to Utilitarian, they’ve produced furious extreme metal that, while not always stellar, has at least been good and different. Their previous album, Utilitarian, was the peak of their experimentation, and one of the most original albums the genre has seen in ages, featuring spastic time signature deviation and a sax solo by John Zorn. How they would follow up something like that was anyone’s guess. Apex Predator-Easy Meat (hereafter referred to simply as Apex Predator) isn’t exactly a continuation of the outré stylings of Utilitarian, but it doesn’t dispense with them entirely, either.
Apex Predator is far more straightforward grind than the experimental trappings of the band’s previous album, with riffs being catchier and more thrash and groove oriented. The album hearkens back to a time when grind was still young and developing, aping other, more popular metal genres in its own unique way, while still sounding fresh and interesting. The more straightforward approach helps — not hinders, in this case — in part because Napalm Death sound just as raw, vital, and pissed off as they did when they helped create the genre thirty-odd years ago. Apex Predator shows the world that the band that started it all haven’t lost an ounce of fury along the way.
Speaking of sounding as good, if not better, than when you began, Barney Greenway proves once again why he’s one of the most legendary vocalists in metal, delivering a performance that’s simply above and beyond most of his contemporaries. With the exception JR Hayes and Kat Katz, few extreme metal vocalists can deliver the kind of performance Greenway does album after album for years on end. Combined with his introspective, nihilistic lyrical stylings and vocal lines that are catchier than they have any right to be in this genre, Barney proves himself once again the strongest part of a band that regularly churns out flawless performances.
The only question that remains after digesting Apex Predator is where, exactly, does a band like Napalm Death go from here? After a career of creating and defining one of extreme metal’s most extreme genres, what territory is left for them to explore, while still delivering an album that’s true to their roots and pleasing to the fanbase they’ve spend decades building? Perhaps the biggest problem with being part of such a long running and important band is that certain things are expected of you after the fact, and while they’ve delivered again and again and still managed to defy expectations, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them branch out and do something completely different and surprising. With two paths ahead of them, stagnation or experimentation, it’s not hard to see which a band like Napalm Death would choose. If Apex Predator-Easy Meat is any indication, whatever the future holds, it will be interesting.
Napalm Death – Apex Predator gets…