It’s an achievement for any band to survive fifteen albums and the best part of three decades. For a band as extreme as Napalm to do it, without even the slightest hint of easing off the intensity or compromising their beliefs, is quite staggering.
Of course, all the trademark elements of Napalm’s sound remain, but this isn’t a rehash of Harmony Corruption, Fear Emptiness Despair or any of the other defining albums in their back catalog. No, this is a band still exploring, still hurtling forward at breakneck speed. While other bands push boundaries, Napalm destroys them.
The likes of “Think Tank Trials” are brutal exercises in unrelenting ultra-death metal, where the insanely complex rhythms of drummer Danny Herrera and the wildly percussive bass of Shane Embury crash head first into the dirty riffs of Mitch Harris, as Barney Greenway barks, grunts and yelps like a man possessed.
But the really interesting thing about Utiltarian is its diversity and subtlety. Yes, subtlety. “Fall On Their Swords,” for example, contrasts its mid-paced, heavy as hell grind with Gregorian chant; “The Wolf I Feed” proudly revels in the band’s anarcho-punk heritage before catching the listener completely off guard with a fantastic foray into Fear Factory / Ministry-style industrial metal, while the discordant saxophone embellishments on “Everyday Pox” contributes to a jarring and disorientating experience.
Bands like Napalm Death will never have mass market appeal. They’re not built for it and don’t want it. But as the latest instalment of a career that has consistently challenged, this is the sound of a band doing just what it wants to do, without so much as a sideways glance to the conventions and expectations of the business in which it operates. This is the sound of defiance.
(released February 28, 2012 on Century Media Records)