Napalm Death Albums From Worst To Best

Napalm Death Albums From Worst To Best

Napalm Death are one of the most important bands to come out of the UK metal scene, period. Like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, they hail from Birmingham, one of the ugliest, most crushed-under cities in the country’s post-industrial West Midlands. Though they started out as a hardcore punk duo, they were calling themselves Napalm Death as early as 1982, and gigging and recording demo tapes. It took them until 1986 to get anything like a steady lineup, but they had a solid live reputation nonetheless, which got them signed to fledgling label Earache Records. Their first album, 1987’s Scum, was the third Earache release, following the Accüsed’s The Return Of Martha Splatterhead and a split LP between Heresy and Concrete Sox. In its own way, Scum was a split LP, too; it had two completely different lineups on its two sides, with the only constant being drummer Mick Harris.

Napalm Death got a reputation for being one of the fastest and most extreme bands on Earth; their music drew from punk, hardcore, and thrash, but took only the most aggressive elements of these styles and turned it all into a blasting blur, over which vocalist Nik Bullen (soon succeeded by Lee Dorrian) barked slogans. Dorrian was gone soon, too, but his replacement, Mark “Barney” Greenway, would head up a lineup — guitarist Mitch Harris, bassist Shane Embury, and drummer Danny Herrera — that has remained steady up to the present day. (From 1989 to 2004, Jesse Pintado was the band’s second guitarist; he died in 2006.)

Throughout all the lineup shifts and label jumps (from Earache to Spitfire to their current home, Century Media), one thing has remained constant with Napalm Death since the 1980s: they’ve always been rabidly political, never wasting their fans’ time with gory murder fantasies or kitsch Satanism. In fact, the opposite is almost certainly true; Napalm Death have undoubtedly awakened many a previously apathetic metal fan over the years.

Stylistically, they’ve gone through numerous changes, while always remaining essentially themselves. The most sonically radical and fascinating period in their history was the mid-1990s, beginning with 1994’s Fear, Emptiness, Despair and ending four albums later with 1998’s Words From The Exit Wound. On these releases, they played around with dub production techniques, clean singing, and melodic death metal riffs, never coming close to “mainstream” palatability, but infuriating plenty of fans in the process. Fortunately for the new fan, it’s easy to pick these “experimental” records out without even listening to them, as the band switched from a spiky, hand-drawn logo to a slicker digital font. In 2000, when the old logo came back, it was a gesture to fans that the weirdness was over, and raw, hyper-aggressive death-grind was once again the order of the day.

In the 21st Century, Napalm Death are doing a lot of the best work of their career. They’ve got the same kind of power, consolidated through long-standing musical relationships, that Motörhead (who’ve had the same lineup since 1992) have established. You know what a Napalm Death record is going to sound like, but there’s still plenty of room for surprise and unexpected pleasures, which makes every one an event to be excited about.

A brief note: This ranking includes only their full-length studio releases. They’ve got a few live CDs out, but none of them are really necessary, as they’re not exactly a band given to onstage improvisation, and Barney’s not one for David Lee Roth-esque stage banter. It also omits their many, many EPs (three early ones are compiled on Death By Manipulation) and the covers album Leaders Not Followers Vol. 2.


Harmony Corruption (1990)

There are no bad Napalm Death records. Like Motörhead, they've experimented more than you probably think (you could easily put together an entire CD of Motörhead songs that don't sound like Motörhead songs), but they've never strayed far enough from their core sound to truly shock or alienate their fans. At the time of its release, though, Harmony Corruption came damn close.

The follow-up to their path-breaking twin masterpieces, 1987's Scum and 1988's From Enslavement To Obliteration, Harmony Corruption documented a period of major transition for the band. Vocalist Lee Dorrian had left after 1989's Mentally Murdered EP, to be replaced by Mark "Barney" Greenway, formerly of UK death metal act Benediction. Guitarist Bill Steer had also departed to make his other band, Carcass, his full-time gig; he was replaced by Mitch Harris (ex-Righteous Pigs) and Jesse Pintado (ex-Terrorizer). And surprising basically everyone, Napalm Death's third album turned out to be ...a death metal album. They left their native UK and headed to Morrisound Studios in Florida, where they wrote and recorded a bunch of bottom-heavy, moshable songs that sounded more like Deicide or Obituary than anything previously associated with the name Napalm Death. (In fact, John Tardy of Obituary and Glen Benton of Deicide add backing vocals to the song "Unfit Earth.")

Where Scum had packed 28 tracks into 32 minutes, and From Enslavement To Obliteration had maintained the pace with 27 tracks in 34 minutes, Harmony Corruption had only 10 tracks, and was 40 minutes long. And those songs had guitar solos, and breakdowns, and mosh parts, and Greenway's vocals were lower and more brutish, but also intelligible in a way they'd never been before. Heard now, Harmony Corruption is every bit as aggressive as anything that came before. The primitivism of the early albums is still there, just spread across a slightly broader canvas. And it was a good move to make so early on, as it gave them the creative breathing room that would eventually allow them to make the even more exploratory albums they'd release in the mid- to late '90s, like Diatribes and Words From The Exit Wound. But Napalm Death were never meant to be Malevolent Creation, and it's a good thing this orthodox death metal version of the band only lasted one album.


Enemy Of The Music Business (2000)

Napalm Death entered the 21st Century on a slightly unsure footing. Their long relationship with Earache Records had ended somewhat acrimoniously, and they found themselves on Spitfire, a small label with a lot of past-their-prime acts like Lita Ford, Ted Nugent, and Alice Cooper on the roster. It was a weird fit, and the two albums they released during their five "wilderness years" reflect the awkwardness of their professional status, Enemy Of The Music Business in particular.

The album's title is clearly directed at their former home, but it had to make a new label uncomfortable, too, as did track titles like "Thanks For Nothing," "Can't Play, Won't Pay," and "(The Public Get) What The Public Doesn't Want." Musically, it's more intense than any of the four albums preceding it, but intensity isn't always enough. There are no breaks; Enemy comes at you like a machine-gun barrage, one grindcore blast beat after another, and it gets a little monochromatic. The weirdo tangents and space-rock guitar riffs of their late'90s work are definitely missed here.


Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)

In the early '90s, Earache signed a distribution deal with Columbia Records. As a consequence, a bunch of albums that would never otherwise have made it into mall record stores did so, including Carcass's Heartwork, Entombed's Wolverine Blues, Fudge Tunnel's Creep Diets, Godflesh's Selfless, and Napalm Death's Fear, Emptiness, Despair. The Carcass, Fudge Tunnel and Godflesh albums are today justly regarded as those bands' creative peak. The Entombed album isn't bad, but its immediate predecessor, Clandestine, is undeniably superior. Similarly, Fear, Emptiness, Despair is just okay.

But because of the Columbia hookup, it's one of the band's best-selling titles. Hell, the song "Twist The Knife (Slowly)" was pulled for the Mortal Kombat soundtrack, which means the members of Napalm Death have a platinum plaque to their name.

Musically, Fear ... is sludgy and kind of slow, by Napalm standards. You can headbang to songs like "More Than Meets The Eye" without feeling like a 20-year NFL veteran afterwards. The mix has a lot of separation between guitars; they're way off on the left and right sides, with the drums clattering and thudding in between: not that many blast beats, but a few interesting almost-tribal patterns here and there. Barney Greenway's vocals are super-chesty; he sounds like a bear, and bassist Shane Embury, who usually provides unholy, goblin-like screams as a counterpoint, is rarely heard, which makes all the roaring kind of monotonous after a while, especially since most of the songs have nearly identical vocal melodies. Again, not a bad album, just disappointing when compared with their sharper work.


The Code Is Red ...Long Live The Code (2005)

After two albums on the Spitfire label, Napalm Death signed with Century Media, an independent metal label that had achieved success with melodic Scandinavian acts like Arch Enemy and Dark Tranquillity, and the Italian pop-metal group Lacuna Coil. They had their noisy side, too, of course -- they were Eyehategod's label throughout the '90s. But Napalm's working-class, dirt-under-the-nails approach to death metal/grindcore definitely stuck out amid the comparative slickness of Century Media's flagship acts.

The Code Is Red ...Long Live The Code also brought a lineup shift with it -- the first one in a while. Guitarist Jesse Pintado had officially left the band in order to reform his first band, Terrorizer, and Napalm chose not to replace him, moving on as a quartet. The resulting album is one of the fastest and most unrelenting in their late-period discography. Although the opening track (and "single") "Silence Is Deafening" is the length of a normal song at 3:48, it doesn't feel that way; it absolutely blazes along, leaving you breathless as you try to shout along with Barney. And the impression of blinding speed and unstoppable fury is solidified by the two tracks that follow, the 53-second "Right You Are" and the 1:45 "Diplomatic Immunity." There are no solos, and the riffs are almost as one-dimensional as any you'd hear on a Discharge 7" from 1981. Danny Herrera hammers the snare like he's trying to drive nails through the head. For 15 tracks in a row, the fury never truly abates. But then, the album ends with a two-minute almost ambient track, "Our Pain Is Their Power," an ideal come-down after 45 minutes of blazing.

Interestingly, amid all the hyper-aggression, Napalm seem to have actually tried to bring in new fans on this album, through the use of guest vocalists. Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed appears on two tracks, "Instruments Of Persuasion" and "All Hail The Grey Dawn"; Jello Biafra sneers and gibbers through "The Great And The Good"; and Jeff Walker of Carcass can be heard on "Losers," a bonus track on the deluxe edition. None of them add very much, but they represent a pretty broad range of genres (punk, hardcore, extreme metal), all of which Napalm have influenced.


Order Of The Leech (2002)

Order of the Leech was Napalm Death's second and final release for Spitfire. It's a stronger album than its predecessor, 2000's Enemy Of The Music Business, not because the songs are any more angry or speed-crazed (how could they be?), but because the riffs are just a little bit better -- catchier at times, surprisingly twisty at other times. Interestingly, although guitarist Jesse Pintado wouldn't officially leave the band until 2004, he doesn't play on this record -- all the guitars are by Mitch Harris.

There's plenty of head-down grind to tracks like "The Icing On The Hate," "Forced To Fear," and the rest of Order; drummer Danny Herrera drives the music relentlessly, rarely shifting down out of, like, 17th gear. Every once in a while, though, he does get to stretch out a little, like on the disc-opening "Continuing War On Stupidity." Its title marks it as a band manifesto of sorts, so you'd expect them to keep things 100% serious, especially since it's kicking off the album and all. But in the middle of all the roaring and machine-gun drumming, the band suddenly launches a crawling, doom-thrash riff, over which Barney Greenway barks "Procreation of the wicked" in a tribute to arty Swiss thrashers Celtic Frost. It's the kind of thing you could see a band doing live, but not in the studio, and certainly not on the released take of a song -- but it proves that as justifiably pissed off as Napalm Death are about the world, they never lose their sense of humor, or their love of metal.

Because it was released on a label that really didn't know what to do with the band, Order Of The Leech (like Enemy Of The Music Business before it) kind of falls through the cracks of the Napalm Death discography. But it's worth seeking out.


Scum (1987)

Napalm Death's debut, Scum, is a landmark release in "extreme metal." The world, to put it mildly, was not ready -- when it came boiling out of England in 1987, the most insane record most metalheads had ever heard was Slayer's Reign In Blood, which packed 10 furiously thrashing tracks into 28 minutes but still had verses, choruses, and guitar solos. Scum offers 28 tracks in 33 minutes, and one of them is the now-legendary "shortest song in the world," the one-second "You Suffer."

There's actually a fair amount of dynamism here, though, at least on the first side. The album's opening salvo, "Multinational Corporations"/"Instinct Of Survival," starts off slow and ominous, basically a chanted refrain over cymbals, before the second half launches with an awesome punk-thrash riff. Similarly, the title track lurches back and forth between a doomy, almost Celtic Frost-ish verse riff and a blazing, Discharge-like chorus. And "Siege Of Power" is just fantastic -- a grinding bulldozer of a riff, absolutely impossible not to headbang to. It's no wonder the band re-recorded it later, with their current lineup.

The second half of Scum is a completely different story -- which is no surprise, if you look at the album credits. In their early years, Napalm Death went through a lot of members in a fairly short time, and the two sides of Scum feature only one musician in common, drummer Mick Harris. On Side A, he's joined by Nik Bullen on bass and vocals, and Justin Broadrick on guitar. On Side B, the lineup is Lee Dorrian on vocals, Bill Steer on guitar, and Jim Whitely on bass. By the time Side B was recorded, almost all the thrash and metal elements had been excised from their sound, leaving nothing but raw, noisy grind/punk. Most of the songs on the second half of Scum flash past in well under a minute; the longest is the 1:34 "M.A.D." It's literally the sound of young, pissed-off men bashing at their instruments and screaming their politics in your face as quickly and crudely as possible. There are a few good riffs ("Success?", "Divine Death," "M.A.D."), but almost everything else just goes by too fast to make any impression beyond headlong fury. So while Scum is an incredibly important album, it's not a great one.


Utopia Banished (1992)

After the journey to Florida that yielded their most uncharacteristic album, the death metal-besotted Harmony Corruption, Napalm Death returned to the UK and made their first "comeback" record, 1992's Utopia Banished.

It opens with "Discordance," a 90-second industrial-noise intro that features ominous spoken statements layered into a thick wall of crunching static. That leads seamlessly into "Abstain," a thrashy track that retains some of the death metal feel of Harmony Corruption (there's even a guitar solo), but brings the energy level back up to the level of their 1988 release, From Enslavement To Obliteration. This was drummer Danny Herrera's first full album with the band, and he's amazingly disciplined; the rhythms are rock-steady, almost D-beat-like, mostly avoiding the hit-everything-twice chaos Mick "the Human Tornado" Harris brought to the early records. The crazed riffing of Mitch Harris and Jesse Pintado (formerly of Terrorizer), too, has the manic intensity of punk rather than the minimalist slashing of grindcore, and there are some fascinatingly weird moments like the noisy mini-solos buried at the end of "Idiosyncratic," or the way Barney Greenway shouts what sounds like "text me" at the beginning of "Judicial Slime." "Aryanisms" is even crazier, repeatedly coming to a dead stop only to fire up again at an even faster tempo. On top of the roaring, crashing band, Greenway sounds like the world's angriest gorilla.

Utopia Banished is probably the least well known of Napalm Death's early albums, coming as it does between the death metal detour of Harmony Corruption and the experimental phase that lasted from Fear, Emptiness, Despair through Words From The Exit Wound. But it's also one of the most likely to pleasantly surprise a listener.


Inside The Torn Apart (1997)

The immediate predecessor to Words From The Exit Wound, 1997's Inside The Torn Apart is basically a dry run for that album. Napalm Death pull all the same tricks on this disc as they did on its successor: they open strong ("Breed To Breathe" is a fantastic, hard-driving single), they throw some curve balls at the listener ("Birth In Regress" features an industrial-ish main riff, a breakdown with clean guitars, and a catchy chorus), and they keep the drumming closer to rock -- with some tribal elements at times -- than grindcore or death metal. Hell, the title track could almost be by Ministry.

On their four mid-'90s albums, Napalm Death really seemed like they were trying to break the bounds of not only their own long-established style, but also the subgenres they were experimenting with. The band that had begun its career as the most extreme of the extreme (the one-second "You Suffer") had apparently realized that it was all too easy to run into a creative dead end. Of course, personnel turnover had a lot to do with the changes: by 1998, the only member whose tenure dated back as far as From Enslavement To Obliteration (never mind Scum or the earliest days) was bassist Shane Embury, and Barney Greenway, Mitch Harris, Jesse Pintado and Danny Herrera had made the band their own.


Words From The Exit Wound (1998)

Words From The Exit Wound was Napalm Death's farewell to Earache Records, as well as their last record with producer Colin Richardson (who'd worked on every one of their 1990s albums, starting with Utopia Banished). It also came wrapped in the single ugliest album cover in their catalog, up there with Iron Maiden's Dance Of Death for instantly dated digital hideousness. That said, it's a great fucking album, too often ignored by fans who favor their harder, more monochromatically aggressive material.

The music is some of the most stylistically expansive and, frankly, melodic in their catalog. Many of the songs are a blend of melodic death metal and crisp industrial; "Incendiary Incoming," with its pinch harmonic guitar lines, could be a song by Prong. From the opening "The Infiltraitor" to the closing "Sceptic In Perspective," the riffs have an almost space-rock energy, and across the board, Danny Herrera's playing slower than at any other time in the band's career, allowing a real rock 'n' roll swing to take over for the machine-gun battery for which he's typically known. As with all the Richardson-era albums, there are a lot of clean vocals and very few interjections from Shane Embury, and some songs have industrial-ish intros or interludes, with spoken samples over noisy electronic backgrounds. (This was something the band had been doing as early as Utopia Banished, and continues to this day; it works remarkably well even alongside their most grinding material.) Fear, Emptiness, Despair may have been Napalm Death's best-distributed album, but Words From The Exit Wound is their most commercial. Shockingly, it proves that they probably could have gone even farther down this road, had they so chosen. (Note: In a typically late '90s move, the U.S. edition of the album ends with three minutes of digital silence, followed by three live tracks -- "Hung," "Greed Killing," and "Suffer The Children.")


Diatribes (1996)

Diatribes, the second in Napalm Death's four-album series of attempts to evolve into a kind of melodic/industrial death metal band, is easily the most vilified record in their catalog within a certain segment of their fan base. It gets accused of being their attempt to embrace groove metal, nü-metal, or whatever else the metalhead in question hates the most. In fact, it's a sharp, creative record that finds the band exploring some of the music their friends and peers were making, without sacrificing their own fundamental identity.

Songs like "Cursed To Crawl" and "Cold Forgiveness" don't sound anything like the Napalm Death of the past. They chug rather than blast, rolling along on a midtempo, bass-heavy groove that lets Shane Embury move into a dub-metal zone while Mitch Harris and Jesse Pintado explore post-industrial guitar tones, reminiscent of Godflesh's Justin Broadrick, rather than their usual roar. With its mechanistic, looping structures and seething rage, "Cursed To Crawl" recalls Killing Joke, while "Cold Forgiveness," with its chant of "The face/Behind the face/Behind the face," has an ominous power unlike anything else in the ND catalog.

Even the faster songs are of a different nature than their previous work. Album opener "Greed Killing" is a shockingly melodic (by Napalm standards) death metal rager, while "My Own Worst Enemy" features tumbling, almost tribal drumming and "Just Rewards" moves away from the post-punk/industrial sound of most of the record, toward hardcore, with Herrera's drums cleaner and much more prominent in the mix than usual. And the title track starts off in blazing "Greed Killing" mode, but in its final third downshifts sharply to a more Prong-like groove, with some surprisingly warped guitar work. Ultimately, Diatribes is Napalm Death's most adventurous, and most controversial, album. But despite all the nods to Prong, Killing Joke, and Godflesh that can be heard in its grooves, it's 100% a Napalm Death record.


Apex Predator - Easy Meat (2015)

Napalm Death's 15th studio album, and the follow-up to 2012's skull-cracking Utilitarian, starts off with its title track, which is an incredibly unnerving spoken/chanted/ranted monologue over tribal beats reminiscent of early Swans, or even Einstürzende Neubauten. Barney Greenway groans his lyrics, while Shane Embury screeches in a voice that sounds like a fucking Dalek; it's enough to give you chills. As always when a Napalm album starts off slow, though, the next track is blindingly fast. The guitars on "Smash A Single Digit" have an edge like a polished-steel bandsaw blade, erupting into full-on grindcore fury in the final 20 seconds.

Other highlights include the bass intro to "How the Years Condemn," the lurching headlong groove(!) of "Timeless Flogging," and the dirgelike chanting of "Dear Slum Landlord..." The most adventurous song is "Hierarchies," which features layered clean vocals reminiscent of avant-art-pop act the Cardiacs, and a short but quite shredtastic guitar solo from the only guest on the whole thing, John "Bilbo" Cooke of Corrupt Moral Altar. It all comes full circle at the end, with the long "Adversarial/Copulating Snakes." It starts off as a full-speed barrage, but downshifts at the three-minute mark into a chugging, downtuned dirge, finally ending the way the album began, with the sounds of discordant, clanging metal.

Apex Predator - Easy Meat brings back some of the really exploratory sounds of their late-'90s work ("Cesspits" could have easily fit in on Words From The Exit Wound or Inside The Torn Apart), while retaining the intensity of their other Century Media albums. On first listen, it's a rocket ride, leaving you breathless, but every time you come back to it, new subtleties reveal themselves.


Smear Campaign (2006)

Smear Campaign is a pretty formulaic album. It's fast and furious, the riffs and drumming all set on hyperspeed and Barney Greenway's blast-furnace vocals coming straight at you with zero subtlety or variation. It's the sound of Napalm Death doing what they've been doing for a whole lot of years, and it's a lot like a 21st Century Motörhead release in that way -- you know what you're going to get, the only question is how much energy and craft they'll put into it. Will it be the equivalent of a killer album like Inferno, or a relatively lackluster disc like Motorizer? Well, as you can tell from its place on this list, Smear Campaign is fucking great.

Lyrically, it's more focused than many of their releases -- basically every song is an attack on organized religion. Musically they're locked in, too; with the exception of the intro track, "Weltschmerz" (which leads immediately into "Sink Fast, Let Go," one of their fastest 21st Century tracks), there's nothing midtempo or slow here. There's only one guest, too: Anneke van Giersbergen, formerly of Dutch semi-Goth rockers The Gathering, adds creepy spoken vocals and background wailing to "In Deference." If you wanted to give someone only one album to explain what Napalm Death were about in the 2000s, Smear Campaign would be an ideal choice. It's not their best album of the 21st Century, but it might be their most archetypal.


Utilitarian (2012)

It's amazing it took Napalm Death until their 14th studio album to get John Zorn in the studio with them. After all, he'd cited them as an influence on the "hardcore miniatures" heard on Naked City's self-titled, Torture Garden and Grand Guignol albums, and poached their drummer, Mick Harris, for his skronk-improv trio, Painkiller (who were even signed to Napalm's label, Earache, for their first two releases). But somehow their paths never fully crossed in the expected way until "Everyday Pox," the third track on this disc. Zorn manages to cram two concise but coherent and complete saxophone solos into the song's 2:10 running time; he's first heard at the 30-second mark, screeching and wailing in the horn's uppermost register behind Greenway's roars, then again from 1:40 to the end of the track, spitting out echoey, reverbed squiggles and squeals just like he used to do in Painkiller. It's more than enough to make you wish he'd play with them for an entire album or concert, just soloing away as they blast through their songs.

Of course, the rest of Utilitarian doesn't suffer from his absence. It's one of the best latter-day, "neo-grind" Napalm Death albums, with all the fury of Smear Campaign or The Code Is Red ...Long Live The Code, but more discipline (and no Jello Biafra). The doubling of Greenway's vocals is more obvious than usual on a few tracks, but that's balanced by amazing performances like "The Wolf I Feed," where Shane Embury's unhinged howling is more prominent than ever -- he's basically a co-lead vocalist -- and the clean chorus makes the song a perfect balance of melody and extremity. (Embury steps forward again on "Orders Of Magnitude," and, if possible, sounds even scarier. He's a screeching goblin, and good for him.) And musically, the band is just on fire. Herrera's drumming is relentless in the best way, and Mitch Harris's layered guitars saw at your ears sometimes, and soar above the din at others. And the D-beat bass-and-drums intro, ending with a pick slide, that kicks off "Everything In Mono" is fantastic. There are as many headbang-worthy moments as get-in-the-pit-and-kill-someone explosions; other than its relatively slow-paced introductory track, "Circumspect," it's pretty much all barrage, but with enough variation to keep fans of their more exploratory material tuned in.


From Enslavement To Obliteration (1988)

The second Napalm Death album improves on its predecessor by managing to maintain consistent personnel across both sides -- but not the same personnel as Side B of Scum. Vocalist Lee Dorrian, guitarist Bill Steer, and drummer Mick Harris are all accounted for, but bassist Jim Whitely's gone; in his place is Shane Embury, who's since become the band's anchor, right up to the present day.

Interestingly, the lineup here, most of whom were responsible for the comparatively inferior material on the debut's second half, achieve greatness by emulating the first half. The songs on F.E.T.O. have the blinding speed of the latter half of Scum, and the majority of them come in under the 90-second mark, but the riffs aren't just windmills of fury; they've got the thrash-punk intensity of longer, more complex songs. In just 36 seconds, "Private Death" has dynamics and an addictive headbangability. When the band really "stretches out," as on "Unchallenged Hate" or the album's longest song, "Display To Me ..." they get into a thrash-meets-D-beat zone that's like drinking ice-cold water with electricity running through it.

The other thing that makes F.E.T.O. such an astonishing achievement is the relative cleanliness of its sound. Yes, the guitar and bass are both grinding, distorted blurs, but they're really well recorded and separated -- you can hear what Steer and Embury are doing, independently of each other. Similarly, Mick Harris's drums have a much more visceral, whomping impact than you might expect at the speed he's playing, and the contrast between his high-pitched, goblin-like screeches (a role Embury would later take over) and Dorrian's guttural growling is extreme, but complementary. This is about the best this type of music could ever possibly sound, which perfectly suits the totally adrenalized performances.


Time Waits For No Slave (2009)

The 13th Napalm Death studio album, and their third for Century Media, starts off as a fast and furious barrage of riffs and blast beats. There are some tempo changes here and there, to keep the listener's attention from wandering, and the fourth track, "On The Brink Of Extinction," is surprisingly thrashy, but as the album gets going, it initially feels like more of the same, a possibly disappointing follow-up to 2006's breathtaking Smear Campaign. But then, on the title track, things get weird. Barney Greenway adds a weirdly tuneless style of clean singing to his usual enraged bark, almost working against the melody expressed in the riff. That's followed by "Life And Limb," which begins by chugging in an almost groove-metal manner, has maybe the most melodic chorus on the whole album, and ends with clanging clean guitars over atmospheric feedback.

The longer the album progresses, the more adventurous it gets. There's a trilogy of tracks in the second half -- "Passive Tense," "Larceny Of The Heart," and "Procrastination On The Empty Vessel" -- that could have been outtakes from 1996's dubby, post-punkish Diatribes. Then we get the high-tech thrash of "Feeling Redundant," and two final tracks of blazing grind, "A No-Sided Argument" and "De-Evolution Ad Nauseum," just to remind you that you're still listening to a Napalm Death album from 2009. The ability to encapsulate all the growth they've undergone in the two decades since this lineup first began to come together, bring in all the best bits from the weird tangents they've gone down, and still sound 100 percent like themselves is the mark of a genuinely great band. Napalm Death are a genuinely great band, and Time Waits For No Slave is their best album. (Note: There are three bonus tracks on various deluxe editions, and they're as good as the album tracks, especially the insane distorted bass on "Suppressed Hunger" and the atmospheric dub-doom of "Omnipresent Knife In Your Back," which sounds like Kevin Martin of Techno Animal and The Bug remixing Napalm Death, is great, too.)

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