Napalm Death, we meet again. For their last decade or so, these guys have been a model of uneventful consistency. Their notorious lineup changes seem to be a thing of the past (or perhaps not), and their last 4-5 albums have been damn solid. This is certainly a good thing for longtime Napalm fans, but it makes reviewing them increasingly redundant. I gently mocked this in my review of their last album, Utilitarian, and I’m hoping that their new one, Apex Predator-Easy Meat gives me a little more to work with.
This time, the album begins with a serious detour from the usual Napalm style. “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” is a mostly-acapella performance by vocalist Barney Greenway, eventually adding tribal-sounding drums and group chants to build tension to a fever pitch. No blastbeats, no guitars. This is easily one of the strangest tracks in ND‘s lengthy history, and as an opening track it is both ballsy and devastatingly effective.
Once the task of defying my expectations is over, the band gets down to business with a 96-second burst of spastic fury called “Smash a Single Digit.” They up the ante with “Metaphorically Screw You,” which sports a ridiculous descending riff and a downright animalistic delivery from Greenway. Have I mentioned that these guys have some of the best song titles in the business? ‘Cause they do.
The key to Napalm Death‘s current renaissance is the delicate balance of experimentation and consistency. 28 years in, they obviously know what’s expected of them. But they also know that the occasional diversion or two is not only tolerated, but welcome. Nowadays, these diversions usually involve incorporation of non-metal influences and/or a revisiting of ND‘s much-maligned ’90s output. It comes as no surprise to learn that these guys listen to Killing Joke and Swans, and you can hear the influences on “Hierarchies” and “Dear Slum Landlord” respectively. Meanwhile, “Timeless Flogging” rocks a groove riff that would not have been out of place on Diatribes, to devastating effect.
Of course, those moments are surrounded by plenty of furious grinding death metal, since that’s probably what you’re here for. “Stubborn Stains” contains one of the most disgusting-sounding ND riffs in recent memory. “One-Eyed” is a late-album shitkicker, delivering the speed and fury that Napalm is known and feared for. And closer “Adversarial – Copulating Snakes” bursts forth with D-beat hardcore, before transitioning into a slow-motion Celtic Frost homage to end the record.
Given the band’s dense back catalog, there’s really no way to avoid that feeling of “oh, it’s another Napalm Death record.” However, that should not detract at all from the fact that it’s another high-quality offering. If you’ve heard any of their records since The Code Is Red, then you pretty much know what’s up. Napalm Death may rarely surprise, but they also don’t disappoint.