Napalm Death – “How The Years Condemn” (Stereogum Premiere)

Michael Nelson | January 9, 2015 - 9:58 am

Napalm Death will fuck with your perception of the passage of time, man; maybe your perception of reality. Look back with me. The first iteration of the band was formed in 1981. No one involved with that version of Napalm Death is in Napalm Death today. The same is true of the second iteration of Napalm Death. And the third. (The third iteration of Napalm Death was the first to include guitarist Justin Broadrick, who famously went on to form the revered industrial-metal band Godflesh.) And the fourth. (The fourth iteration of Napalm Death was the first to include drummer Mick Harris, who is believed to be the man who invented the blast beat, which more or less gave birth to extreme metal as we know it.) And the fifth. (The fifth iteration of Napalm Death was the first to include vocalist Lee Dorrian — who went on to form the revered doom-metal band Cathedral — and guitarist Bill Steer — who went on to form the revered death-metal band Carcass). It was not until Napalm Death’s SIXTH iteration — which came together in 1987 (the year the band released their first album, Scum, which spawned the musical style called grindcore) — that bassist Shane Embury joined. And since 1987, Embury has been a part of Napalm Death. He’s the only one. By 1990, half the lineup had turned over again: Napalm Death had a new vocalist (Barney Greenway) and two new guitarists (Mitch Harris and Jesse Pintado). The band had also transitioned from playing grindcore to playing a grind-heavy form of death metal, resulting in the genre classic Harmony Corruption. In 1991, at the conclusion of the Harmony Corruption tour, Harris left, too, replaced by new drummer Danny Herrera.

And since then, Napalm Death have been — impossibly — pretty stable. For the last TWENTY-THREE YEARS. (Although Pintado passed away in 2006.) If they’d ended the band when Mick Harris left, Napalm Death would still be taught in Metal 101. But they just kept playing, kept writing, kept evolving. And that evolution has resulted in some amazing, essential records, comprising one of the most impressive bodies of work in modern metal. Since 1992, Napalm Death have released 11 LPs; at worst, those LPs are pretty good, and some of them have been incredible. And that’s the Napalm Death everybody grew up with — that is Napalm Death. Here’s the craziest part, the part that will really fuck with your perception of time: As of today, Shane Embury is only 47 years old. That’s three years younger than Eddie Vedder! This will fuck with your perception of time, too: Later this month, Napalm Death will release a new record, their first in three years, Apex Predator – Easy Meat; it’s the 15th LP of their career, the 12th since their modern-day lineup was more or less finalized, and it is — also impossibly — one of their very best.

That sounds like hyperbole, but it is not. Front to back, Apex Predator – Easy Meat is heavier and groovier than many of the albums that make up ND’s catalog, but it’s also more organic-sounding, and it varies the delivery so much — and in such exciting ways — that the heaviness and grooves are given even greater emphasis. Greenway in particular has adjusted his approach to melodic singing; he now bellows in this tortured Gira-esque howl, and when he uses that tool, it’s absolutely devastating. It also ramps up the intensity when he shifts into the familiar Barney bark — a thing that sounds like fire blasts and razorblades and rage — which has aged unusually well, too. That’s what you’ll hear on the song we’re streaming for you today. “How The Years Condemn” is Napalm Death just pushing everything into the red, just laying waste. That title, though, is straight-up false advertising. The years condemn? Maybe for the rest of us they do, but the years don’t seem to affect Napalm Death AT ALL. Well, they haven’t gotten any older, at least. But somehow, they get better. Listen.

Apex Predator – Easy Meat is out 1/27 via Century Media, and on that same day, the band kick off a monthlong North American tour with the great Canadian prog-thrash band Voivod. I will be at the NYC date, and I recommend you be at whichever of these shows stops nearest you.

01/27 Miami, FL @ Grand Central
01/28 St Petersburg, FL @ State Theater
01/29 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
01/30 Winston-Salem, NC @ Ziggy’s
01/31 Baltimore, MD @ Soundstage
02/02 New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater
02/03 Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
02/04 Toronto, ON @ Opera House
02/05 Ottawa, ON @ Maverick’s
02/06 Montreal, QC @ Club Soda
02/07 Worcester, MA @ Palladium
02/08 Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance Theater
02/09 Cleveland, OH @ Agora Ballroom
02/10 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s
02/11 Minneapolis, MN @ Amsterdam
02/12 Winnipeg, MB @ The Zoo
02/13 Regina, SK @ The Exchange
02/14 algary, AB @ Republik
02/15 Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Room
02/17 Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theater
02/18 Seattle, WA @ Studio 7
02/19 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
02/20 Oakland, CA @ Metro
02/21 Fresno, CA @ Strummers
02/22 Los Angeles, CA @ House Of Blues 
02/23 Tempe, AZ @ Club Red
02/24 Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
02/25 Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
02/26 Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater
02/27 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey
02/28 Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s

Tags: Napalm Death