Napalm Death Apex Predator - Easy Meat
By: Chris Davison
Readers may be aware of the recent furor in the media regarding the claims by Fox “News” (US) that the city of Birmingham, England, had become a haven for radical extremists bent on broadcasting their furious message. If only they’d made the clarification that they meant Napalm Death, maybe they’d have been right! I make this their sixteenth full length album, excluding EPs and compilations, which of course means that Napalm Death have run a whole lot of experience since Scum erupted in 1987 and changed extreme music forever.
I am a fan of Napalm Death – though it is fair to say that I prefer their output since their move from Earache Records (aside from Harmony Corruption; that is). Their records have become a reliable indicator of furious, uncompromising grindcore. All of which serves to make Apex Predator - Easy Meat all the more remarkable. This is undeniably Napalm Death with all the hallmarks of their work – beyond intense grinding riffs, devastating drums, grumbling bass set to “attack” and the unmistakeable vocals of Barney Greenway.
However, this time things feel different. To put a finger on it, Apex Predator... feels much more focused, lyrically and musically, while being more dynamic than their recent albums. It is also, by some considerable margin, their heaviest album by some distance. This is not a metric based on blasts per minute, nor upon the speed of guitar licks, but in terms of the atmosphere and feel of the album.
Apex Predator.... is an album that is perfect for the times in the UK. Having lived through the early 1980s in the UK, today feels very similar in tone. The economy is depressed, there is a pervading sense of helplessness and apathy from the political classes, while a fragmented and docile population snaps and bites at each other. In setting the tone for the album, opener “Apex Predator – Easy Meat,” a slow, almost industrial sounding intro which appears to be narrated by Davros (creator of the Daleks, nerd-fans) with the words,
“Tenderise chunks of a weakling
Claim on bare bones for bleaching
Thousand yard stares
For the meeting”
This is an indictment of the “free market” and the grinding of the weak for the corporate elite, and is a lyrical theme that continues with the blasting “Smash A Single Digit,” with the lyrics, “Non-reflective minions / who must labour and perish.” This is a band that is angry at the status quo, and it is an anger that perfectly captures the zeitgeist.
The clattering “Metaphorically Screwed” takes a fairly conventional punky beat, but then mixes things up with a funky mid-section that gives way to a swaggering crescendo, while Barney describes how the easy jargon of the modern age and consumerism has a sleep-inducing effect. “How the Years Condemn” is a stomping reflection on the absence of need for an invisible friend as the years advance, with a (relatively!) fragile discordant guitar which adds to the plaintive mood of the track. “Stubborn Stain” is perhaps the most typical Napalm Death track on the album, which again talks of the corporate disinterest in the suffering of its workers.
“Timeless Flogging” with the odd, mechanistic jarring time signatures gives way to a furious whirlwind of blastbeats and light-speed riffing, with some notably deft bass work. This is a song that describes the dehumanisation of the worker through repetitive, machine-like modern production line work. “Dear Slum Landlord,” with the choral vocal effect and Godflesh-ian crawl does what it says on the tin, but brings to my mind the empty vacuum that lurked at the heart of The Special’s “Ghost Town”. “Cesspits” has a lurching, aggressive pace that propels it with the force of a rabid dog, while “Bloodless Coup” argues that revolutions often lead to more repressive regimes, all set to an authentic old-school hardcore beat.
“Beyond The Pale” and “Stunt Your Growth” both horrify as much as they fascinate with their unflinching and uneasy listening. The latter, in particular has a middle section that is set to ignite pits when played live. “Hierarchies” brings to mind the punked-up metal of Benediction’s “Killing Music,” while “One-Eyed” asks questions regarding the role of television and who funds the tranquilising produce?
Finally, “Adversarial / Copulating Snakes” – at over five minutes an epic for a Napalm Death song, ably ends the album, acting as a neat full stop and inviting the listener to press “play” for another go at the album – an effect I have found myself doing time and time again since getting the album. That the final track features a riff that is – erm – “inspired by” Procreation Of The Wicked” has nothing to do with it!
Those of a right wing nature are not going to enjoy the lyrical content of Napalm Death on this album, though they are a band that have never been afraid of covering politics in their music. Apex Predator... is all the more remarkable that a band that have been going for almost thirty years can still produce an album so cohesive, interesting and demanding at this stage in their career. It certainly isn’t anything like an easy listen, but be honest – when did that make for interesting music?
Clearing the decks of various reviews....
Ascension The Dead Of The World
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