Album Review: Napalm Death – Utilitarian
Posted by Reggie
Deep guttural vocal – check! Deafening screams – check! Blast beat – Check! Everything you expect on a Napalm Death album – check! Utilitarian is the Napalm Death’s 15th studio album. Seventeen songs make up 48+ minutes of Napalm brutality. That’s a lot of time to be hammered between the ears with one of the most prolific (grindcore, death) metal acts of all time. Utilitarian is no exception this late into Napalm Death’s career. Greenway is still growling with the best of them.
I am an inconsistent Napalm Death fan. I was heavily into the band in the late 90s around the release of the albums Harmony Corruption; Fear, Emptiness, Despair; and Diatribes. I even got to see the band live one time in San Antonio. It was a brutal experience! I did pick up Smear Campaign released in 2006 and thought it was right on par with most of everything Napalm Death had ever done, but it never sat as well with me as the earlier mentioned albums.
The concept of Utilitarian is philosophical, according to Greenway. He described this concept as positive actions produce positive results. Could the world be a better place? It’s about thinking your actions though and making the right decisions; being patient for results instead of seeking instant gratification. This isn’t your happy-go-lucky album by any means. The “positive” message may be there, but this is raw Napalm Death as I remember them from the 90s.
On the first listen, the entire album is basically a death metal/grindcore blend. It is hard to hear intricacies that separate the songs from each other. I expected that. You start off with a misleading intro and then Errors in the Signals corrects that by blasting you with tight riffs and screams of unholy damnation! Of course, we know this has nothing to do with religion. It’s in your face; unmistakable Napalm Death. And that is exactly why people listen to Napalm Death, including me. However, I tend to lean more toward their thrash side (Suffer the Children, etc.). Like most other death and/or grindcore bands, I can handle them in small doses. To sit though 48-minutes of Greenway screaming directly at me – that’s how it feels, I need to literally take a break and listen to something with less potency.
There were a couple of songs that stood out immediately. The Wolf I Feed is a bit more thrash and that’s probably why it stuck out for me. I haven’t been able to confirm, but vocals in the middle of the song resemble the softer side of Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory. If sounding thrash is toning down a bit, then so be it. Leper Colony is another one of the – dare I say – toned-down thrash songs. You can sample that one below. The other song that basically kicked my ass is Blank Look About Face. I haven’t heard anything that angry-sounding in a long time.
Although not my preferred subgenre in metal, Utilitarian is what you would or should expect from Napalm Death. They are the pioneers of grindcore and are still leading by example. Though less thrashy than some of their previous mid-2000 releases, Utilitarian is sure to invoke fist-flying mosh-pits around the world as Napalm hits the tour circuit. Album #15 is as brutal as the first. Painful actually, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.