posted on 3/2012 By:
Few bands always deliver. To say Napalm Death is among those few bands would be a colossal understatement. To put it bluntly, listening to Napalm Death is pretty much mandatory. The more albums a mandatory band such as this one puts out, the more interesting a task it becomes to put the newcomers up against an already-immense discography. Needless to say, after spending an entire month listening to virtually every release from Scum to the band's latest, one would hope to be able to come to some insigntful and proper conclusions as to where Utilitarian stands by comparison, and to where the band may be headed regarding future endeavours. But before all that is discussed, there are some pressing extra-curricular activities regarding Utilitarian that need to be addressed.
While Utilitarian may focus heavily on current events such as the recent Occupy movements, it's not really a new thing for Barney Greenway to speak his mind on current events. Therefore, while most of you were off rioting and protesting, I was left alone like the last kid in the sandbox -- except my sandbox was the streets of New Orleans and my play shovel was my bright and shiny new copy of the Utilitarian compact disc. And that's when madness started. First, I discovered that the CD is a pretty cool boomerang. If you throw it at a fast enough velocity, it will decapitate anyone within a hundred-mile radius before making its way back to its rightful owner. Next, I realized that holding the CD at the proper angle magnifies the reflection one thousand-fold, allowing the beholder to permanently blind anyone they hate. Finally, I started to notice that Utilitarian, when played at high levels, serves as a pretty good scrambler for radar detectors, police radios, and any other devices our uniformed babysitters may use to protect us. Think I'm kidding? You'll never know until you try it.
For those who are either hearing impaired or have yet to discover the fact that Century Media has been streaming Utilitarian on its website, Napalm Death's latest effort could be described as something of progressive grindcore. No, it's not the cacophonous saxophone segments featured in "Everyday Pox" that make the group's fourteenth full-length outstanding, even though those don't hurt the results one bit. Utilitarian is all about atmosphere, and it's strange that the cover bears a striking resemblance to the all-time classic, From Enslavement To Obliteration, which is the first instance in which Napalm Death reinvented itself for the better. "Circumspect," the album's intro, is downright chilling, almost to the extent that I thought I had accidentally ordered some unreleased material from UK counterparts Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney upon first listen. Diving further into the album will lead the listener to find much of the same songwriting structure a-la Shane Embury that has graced every album since Enemy of the Music Business. What's different this time around is the sheer density of the fucking thing. It truly sounds better than any grindcore album that has ever been produced. But does that mean it is better? Let's do some brief comparisons, shall we?
2009's Time Waits For No Slave is among the best grindcore albums of all time, if not the best. To be hit with "Strongarm" right out of the starting blocks is nothing short of cathartic. After hearing the production samples of Utilitarian, all hopeful fans expected much of the same, but in even more bombastic fashion. Unfortunately, that's not quite what Napalm Death has served up this go-around. The thing about Utilitarian is that the delivery doesn't quite outweigh the anticipation. It's not until the one-and-one-half minute mark into the fourth track, "Protection Racket," that the infamous Embury groove finally comes into play, albeit without accompaniment from those "Diktat" moments of perfect brutality.
Although the album is a bit slow to open up, by the time "Think Tank Trials" leads its way into the death march that is "Blank Look About Face," the record, along with all of its quirky new additions, will have easily won over the hearts of the fans. The frequency of Greenway's Victorian-esque clean vocals -- the best of which are demonstrated on "Fall On Their Swords" -- add another new aspect to the band's sound. Mitch's raspy growls also give Utilitarian a refreshing yet crusty vibe on the throwdown track, "Orders of Magnitude." Other smash hits include "Leper Colony" and "Analysis Paralysis," or rather the "Life And Limb" of the album. Weighing in at roughly forty-six minutes, these seventeen tracks make up what will likely be one of the best grindcore albums of the year.
In the grand scheme of things, Napalm Death has zero throwaway albums, a small handful of average ones (Fear, Emptiness, Despair, Diatribes), a very generous helping of records that easily destroy every other grindcore outfit out there, and a few timeless classics that are absolutely mandatory for everyone (From Enslavement To Obliteration, Time Waits For No Slave, Harmony Corruption). While Utilitarian doesn't quite fit into the "best of" category, one shouldn't go so far as to say it isn't mandatory, because Utilitarian pushes boundaries that even Time Waits... does not. Napalm Death has advanced its sound in every single aspect, and it has done so without even so much of a hiccup in its discography. Lord only knows what would happen if the powers of Utilitarian and its predecessor were to someday combine forces in some dark alleyway of Birmingham.
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Time Waits For No Slave
2/10/2009 Napalm Death
9/19/2006 Napalm Death
The Code Is Red...Long Live The Code
4/19/2005 Napalm Death
Leaders Not Followers: Part 2
10/5/2004 Napalm Death
Order of the Leech