'Utilitarian' – the very title of this album has already stirred up some controversy, mostly from key-board terrorists in the Blabbermouth comments. The title alone challenges the apathetic non-compassionate, self-fulfilling lives most people lead. It challenges one to take a look at the bigger picture and recognize that there are consequences for the choices we make in how we live our lives. There is a road to peace and happiness but that's a rough road that takes dedication, determination, and action, it is the less convenient road. Unfortunately humans seem to be a creature of convenience and we are willing to do almost anything to make our lives "easier". With this kind of egocentric logic we will surely kill ourselves off. With the tile alone NAPAL M DEATH challenges that there is hope if you are willing to govern your life, your consumption and your very existence with a greater compassion. 'Utilitarian' is loosely a concept album with each song offering ideas and while pointing fingers at the mirror and asking for self-reflection. Sadly most of the message will float right over the heads of the average extreme music fan, but for every individual who opens their eyes...that's one for the win column!
In a recent interview Barney was quoted as saying something along the lines of that Death Metal was a limited genre where with Grindcore the door was wide open, anything could happen. Normally I would disagree with that, to me Grindcore is also limited genre. He was saying that with Death Metal you know what you are going to get, there is not much room for exploration. I would apply that same logic to Grindcore...but with one exception – NAPALM DEATH.
Although NAPALM has certainly dabbled in Death Metal themselves in the early 90's they have mainly kept to the grind and against all odds they have kept it incredibly exciting. You can't help but to feel the energy and excitement as the first/intro track 'Circumspect' gives way to the all-out sensory assault of 'Errors in the Signals'. From there on the NAPALM dudes are off and grinding their way through another fantastic album.
Even though ND have been on a bit of run with top quality albums over the last decade or 'Utilitarian' stands out as the crème de la crème of the most recent catalog entries. And it is exactly for the reason that Barney gave in that interview I made mention of early on. ND are not afraid to push the boundaries and the norms of Grindcore to the side and inject unforeseen and foreign bodies into the dis-musical, cacophony, of sonic bombardment. 'Everyday Pox' is great example of this as the song itself, to my interpretation, isa bout pre-judgment and baseless opinions while the song boasts a saxophone! Albeit a twisted, disharmonic saxophone, it is still there...a sax on a NAPALM DEATH album, and it works! Throughout the album they keep this spirit by introducing sung vocals with melody behind them. 'The Wolf I Feed' offers a melodic vocal line in a sort of KILLING JOKE manner that adds another dimension to an already stand out track on the album. And this isn't the only time you'll hear an eerily sung vocal line on this album. 'Fall on Their Swords' is another track where an almost monk-like chant is heard as Barney spits out vocal venom!
'The Wolf I Feed' also pushes Mitch's vocals to the front where Barney handles chorus duties. Mitch seems to have a more prominent vocal role throughout the album which really helps the songs stand apart and find their own identity.
NAPALM DEATH is never falls short on the brutal, most grind bands don't, but what NAPALM really have a keen understanding of is what makes a song good. That's where a lot of bands fall off the cliff. They aren't afraid of the hook and of even sing-a-long choruses. 'The Wolf I Feed' and 'Quarantine' are great examples of this and will certainly slay in the live setting. I can see it now, fists and horns in the air while everyone is screaming the vocal chords hoarse with chants of "Quarantine!- Quarantine !-Quarantine!"
NAPALM DEATH seems to almost always be able to top themselves which is simply amazing and unheard of. They wear their politics and beliefs on their sleeves and I commend them for this. They, and Barney especially, are one of the most out-spoken bands there are. I almost always stop to read or watch an interview with Barney as I find him to be very inspiring. It's not something you see or find very often with a band as successful as NAPALM DEATH, they have stuck by their guns without ever giving in and again that is something that I respect whole heartedly.
And as far as the album goes...If I haven't made it clear enough already this is bar far one of the best albums they have ever delivered. While adding new layers and dimensions to their assault they have not compromised on the aggression at all. It may even be more pissed off and in your face than anything they have done to date. The more I listen to it the more I hear and understand the album. It sends chills down my spine and excites me for the next time they come through town. It also stands as a warm assurance that there are other like-minded folks out there that care and are not here to merely consume, but to strive for a better way to live. "Capitalism isn't working, a better world is possible".