When it comes to the extreme end of metal, the only band I still find worthwhile is Napalm Death. Year after year they continue to release quality music few bands can dream of. Their latest attempt 'Enemy Of The Music Business' has been out since September of last year but it was only recently that I obtained a copy -- despite months of searching. What's better is that the band has succeeded once again in delivering a sonic assault that no one else can match.

What remains especially satisfying is Napalm's steady line up. The band members, Mark 'Barney' Greenway, Shane Embury, Jesse Pintado, Danny Herrera and Mitch Harris, have recorded six consecutive albums, starting with 1992's 'Utopia Banished', after Mick Harris left in 1991. This stability is almost unheard of, but it has allowed Napalm to become a machine terms of their musicianship and unity. True Barney was fired in 1996, but he returned unscathed after Phil Vane (Extreme Noise Terror) didn't work out. It must be said that Napalm have become a classic metal band without amassing huge commercial success. The title of the latest album explains that. I have never seen such a fine band release so many first rate albums, yet still resigned to dodgy opening slots and headlining tin pot clubs. It is annoying that Napalm will forever be linked with their 80's incarnation that recorded two infamous albums of grindcore 'Scum' (1987) and 'From Enslavement To Obliteration' (1988). At the time Ican see why it caused a fuss. Unintelligible vocals and blast beat drumming had never been heard like that so Napalm became a novelty. But only Embury (bass) who played on 'From EnslavementŠ' remains from that era, so leave it in the past. As the years have progressed Napalm have remained the final word in grindcore while stretching their sound along the way to keep it fresh. So while 'Utopia Banished' was unrelenting grind, 94's 'Fear, Emptiness, Despair' showed a 'slower' sound that still ripped off heads when it needed to. That is the process most of the following albums have taken. A few blast beats to keep the purists happy, but with genuine instances of creativity surrounding it, that suggests this is no ordinary band. But with the recording of 'Enemy OfŠ Napalm took a reverse direction. Opting to return to the sound of the early 90's, Napalm took their frustrations out with an album which reacts against the industry that to them, has held them down. Songs in this manner, like 'Can't Play, Won't Play' are the bottom line in musical fury. If this band is angry then their music is revenge. The grind harkens back to 92, instead of the somewhat forced blats heard on 96's 'Diatribes' and 97's 'Inside The Torn Apart' as sparse as they were anyway. This time they mean it, and the blast beats are present on almost all fourteen tracks, unlike the three or four of the last three albums. To hardened listeners like myself the music is routine to listen to, but it still amazes that men can make sounds like this. To the uninitiated, this would still sound like noise, inhuman noise. If Joe Blow was to hear 'C.S. Part Two', he would be shocked. Speechless even.

The band is on top of their game musically, the riffs razor sharp, while Herrera puts in a brutal display behind his poor drum kit. Barney puts in some vintage displays. On a few songs he screams 'DIE!' followed by a blast beat. Then there are his trademark 'Goooo!'s, a staple of every album. But the classic is at the beginning of 'Cure For The Common Complaint' when he bellows ''Fucking goooo!'' That's the stuff dreams are made of. The sound is a mixture of all 90's era Napalm records. One moment it might be 1990; the next 1996, but it all combines to a cohesive sound that I feel never repeats itself. If you listen, constantly, to the songs, they all sound different. It's just a case of patience.

What it means is that Napalm have yet to release a poor album, Barney era. While most extreme acts still cater to teens, Napalm have left that scene long behind. They are an adult band. They have no cartoon gimmickry, just a wall of sound, unmatched by the likes of Nile, Morbid Angel, Vader and Deicide for example. These acts, by comparison, are as lightweight as Pantera. Napalm, when they slow it down, can certainly be described as mid-paced thrash. Because after hearing one of their excursions into blast territory, anything else sounds slow by comparison. If metal was based on who was fastest, Napalm would win every time. Hundreds upon hundreds of bands can copy, but never quite duplicate the authenticity of Napalm's style. It might be because they did it first. But it's more because of their talent. Based on their history then I am more than willing to rank Napalm alongside Maiden, Priest, Manowar, etc. as metal legends. I always have a sense that their music has been groundbreaking, especially for extreme metal. Their imitators have surpassed them commercially, unfortunately, but Napalm Death still retain their credibility.

Surely one day they will be regarded as geniuses within their field. To me they already are. And it goes without saying that 'Enemy Of The Music Business' was the album of 2000. Better late than never.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online July 18, 2001

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