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The '90s was a time of reckoning for a lot of classic '80s metal and punk bands. Usually said bands jumped onto a trend and lost any of their identity, stuck to their guns only to fall flat, or ended up producing a magnum opus. Napalm Death were odd in that they not only managed to jump onto a trend (hardcore/groove metal) but then actually made a true classic with Fear, Emptiness, Despair. Sadly though, they couldn't keep up the momentum of that album and in 1996 dropped their worst album. Mind you, for a nadir it's hardly awful, being more forgettable than anything.
To sum up most of the album's contents it falls squarely into the whole Chaos A.D./Time Bomb/Far Beyond Driven style, that being a particularly aggressive form of groove metal, yet at the same time manages to be better than a lot of albums of this style by avoiding the goofy grunts that come with the style in favour of death growls. Barring one bonus track on this 2CD ('Antibody') as well as the title track, there are no remnants of their classic death/grind hybrid sound at all. None of that darkened, hazy atmosphere of the preceding album is anywhere to be found either - this is probably the most stripped down of ND's groove albums (distinguished by their modern logo), with the riffing being repetitive and textured, clearly designed to be the brutal yet rhythmic and memorable motif of a given song. There aren't even any solos; the riffing as well as the beefy death growls of Barney are the main focuses here.
And it's with this stripped down focus that the album largely fails. Barney is his usual self, with a particularly hardcore-infused take on the death growl with a percussive quality that this style demands, so he isn't at fault. The real problem is the music itself. Now, while I can appreciate that some time was spent crafting this album, with everything being meticulously performed and the energy levels remaining high throughout, I can also say that the music here pretty much falls flat. Very few of these riffs, and therefore by extension these songs, are memorable at all. Nothing really sticks, which is a big problem for a riff-driven album like this. The most memorable part is in fact the drum performance; what it lacks in blasting it makes up for by being a continuously rolling, shifting mass that dictates the direction of the music that also manages not to distract from the main show (the guitars and vocals.)
It's not all bad though, and some tracks clearly stand out to me in one way or another. This album marks the first time the band would throw in a 'dirge' - a slower, experimental song which is akin to ambient music in its construction (layers being added and removed over time, slowly evolving the song) that features dissonant, sustained chords. In this case said song is 'Cold Forgiveness', and it manages to work to this album's strength of textured, monolithic riffing, as well as featuring a much needed change of pace in both the music and Barney's spoken word performance. And in spite of myself, the rather infamous 'Cursed to Crawl' is a winner to me as well, having some of the most memorable and well-written riffing on the album and a more varied vocal performance (even if it is quasi-rapped(!)) The opener is quite the shock as well - with its bright, melodic and memorable riffing as well as its catchy nature 'Greed Killing' is probably the single best song ND made during this period and is easily their most distinctive.
However, apart from other songs like 'Self Betrayal' (another dirge on the 2CD) and 'My Own Worst Enemy' (which has fairly distinctive riffing and rhythms) this album simply doesn't work all that well. For something so focused on being memorable and textured very few of the songs actually achieve this goal. Nothing on the album is bad, but at the same time not a lot of it is inherently good given what the band were going for. It's well worth it for 'Greed Killing' and even 'Cursed to Crawl', and the album is pretty cool while it's on but ultimately it leaves you wanting of something more than the wall of stock groove riffs and death growls it constantly pushes to the forefront.
As a long haired, cassette buying seventeen-year old metal head in 1996, Diatribes was an important album for me. It's thick grooves, slick production, and catching material was an excellent recruitment tool for borderline extremists looking for a toehold away from the Pantera/Prong/White Zombie axis of acceptable mainstream heavy metal. Fear, Emptiness, Despair had put the fear in them (a still heavily death metal accentuated album) while their earlier material was sheer hell on ears. Diatribes had the hooks those records lacked. The mid-90's was all about the groove and chug. Whether post-thrash or metalcore, Helmet worship was the dominant paradigm and Napalm Death bought into it all the way.
Looking back on it now, I can see why Diatribes is so heavily maligned. There are some great songs on here. But for each exceptional track, there's several tepid mid-tempo numbers that dare to tread water. As such there isn't much to recommend here beyond a few key tracks that time has done little to undermine.
"Greed Killing" bolts out the gate with huge hooks and catchy choruses. It's a neck-snapper, breathing fresh air into the Napalm Death template. Brazenly flirting with mainstream song structure, this track still screams anger and spits vitriol. Perfectly written, "Greed Killing" only serves to further highlight how flaccid the rest of the songwriting is. "Glimpse Into Genocide" chugs along nicely enough (with a super performance from Danny Herrera on drums) but never truly amounts to much. In comparison, "Ripe For The Breaking" is completely kick-ass. The ferocity of its opening segueing into beautiful atmospheric clean tones before returning to a thickening boil. Barney's voice dominates on top here, delivering strong vocal lines and displaying a passion clearly lacking on other tracks. "Cursed To Crawl" reeks of overreaching outside influence, its bland grooves baldly lifted from of-the-moment hardcore bands like Snapcase & Earth Crisis. "Cold Forgiveness" is a boring take on a droning dirge structure that N.D. seems prone to play with on nearly every record. This one just doesn't live up. "My Own Worst Enemy" has a nice intro riff that gets lost among the mindless chugs and syncopated drum beats. "Just Rewards" rides the shit out of a classic NYHC style breakdown and features some slammin' double-bass yet still somehow fails to cohere as a song. However the title track just shreds -- a classic run of insane windmilling death-grind that will make you pine for what this record could've been. The remaining tracks are merely competent groove numbers that wear thin any remaining patience I have with this record.
Diatribes is a paradoxical album that alienated many. Yet without it, myself and many others might not have taken the longer journey into metal's more extreme hinterlands. So I can remain grateful to it while echoing those who have affirmed its bottom feeding status within the Napalm canon. Those interested in what could've been would do well to check out Extreme Noise Terror's Damage 381, which Barney recorded during his brief post-Diatribes split with the band. It more than adequately bridges the gap that this record (and the two after it) fell into.
I'd be very suprised if there was anyone on metal archives who hasn't heard of the legendary Napalm Death, who pioneered/helped pioneer almost everything that is used currently in extreme metal, as well as arguably being the one of the first extreme metal bands, next to bands like Death and Repulsion. They pioneered the use of blast beats, the use of deeper, angrier death growls, the mixture of high shreiks/low growls, as well as helping establish the now overpopulated death metal scene.
Most people probably remember ND as a grindcore/death metal band with albums like "Harmony Corruption" and "Utopia Banished", and thus, this section of Napalm Death's history (this album and FED) is forgotten or hated. The reason probably being that the grindcore elements you may remember this band for are completley gone. This is more industrial/death metal/groove metal. On paper it sounds stupid, but it's actually a great record, despite the hatred it receives.
The opening track, "Greed Killing" is by far the most entertaining track on the album. In fact, of all the ND albums I've heard, this particular song is by far the most memorable and coolest. 50 of the points I gave this album go to this song. Unfortunatly, immediatly after that song the album goes downhill, and by "Dogma" you'll want to turn it off. However, all these songs are good, but they get very boring after awhile as the riffage is very bland and uninteresting. The songs are often very forgettable, and although there are a handful of standout tracks, all are ruined at some point in time exept for "Greed Killing", which is the only truly amazing song.
So, Napalm Death's "Diatribes" is fairly impressive, although it's definatly not the album I would recommend to get one into this classic band. If you're on here though, you probably already at least own "Scum", so I suppose this is more of a filler album for the big fan than an album I would ever personally purchase. But hey, I got this and Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", buy one get one free for 7.88. Pretty good deal, I think so.
7.2/10- Just buy the "Greed Killing" ep and avoid this unless you're really interested in hearing Napalm Death experimenting with a completly new sound.
Boy you KNOW that Napalm Death were thinking of something other than the music with the artwork being mainly an annoying neon green color....of maybe it was just Dig at Earache pressuring them, who the fuck knows, personally it's migrane-inducing.
Napalm Death's previous album "Fear, Emptiness, Despair" was an all-time high as far as creativity and progression went, but "Diatribes" is where they hit their brakes and really just turned the tv off and were left wondering "How do we progress, evolve further?" More groove, less blastbeats, less cryptic lyrics, less socio-polticial lyrics and more mild-mannered song-structures leaving the listener feel a bit cheated.
"Diatribes" production is too clean almost. Complete contrasting their last album where they really brought in a dirty industrial overtone, "Diatribes" seems like a bad making-up for what they originally wanted with "Fear, Emptiness, Despair." Colin Richardson really fucking neuters the band on this album and the band themselves seem completely lethargic and out-of-tune as far as the direction of the riffs.
There are some good songs, but it's only for the first quarter of the album while the rest are scattered in sections and bridges and choruses and versus and just about everything. "Greed Killing" is catchy as fuck. Not doubting that song. This is probably the closest thing ND will EVER come to writing something that is melodic, catchy, and has the potential of being in the Top 200...."Glimpse Into Genocide", yeah a glimpse into a mass genocide of the music for the rest of the album because at somepoint between "Rip For The Breaking" (One of the more faster songs on here) and "Cold Forgiveness"(Swans/Godflesh-worship) they hit their lowest point ever.
"Cursed To Crawl"
Lowest point meaning it's not needed. I enjoy the song. I seriously do. It doesn't sound Rap-Metal/Nu-Metal/whatever the fuck some of these pretentious so-called Metal fan drama queens would have you believe, in fact it sounds a lot like some other killer 90's Hardcore bands like 1992-circa Sick Of It All or old-school Snapcase because for the most part it's a giant breakdown but done with taste. And groovy. I enjoy it, and if it had been by some other band I would give them praise, but not the brummies. Thankfully they never attemtped to do this again.
Other than that....maybe some points of the last two songs "Placate, Sedate, Eradicate", and "Corrosive Elements" the songs make you go "Huh?" just all the fucking way through. To the point of frustration. Barney is really suffering here with vocal performance. Mitch and Jesse....were you guys listening to too much Machine Head? Shane's lyrics and Danny's drumming are the only redeeming qualities here. And for all that you can still somewhat call it a decent album, just not their best one.
As the title suggest, the earlier “Fear, Emptiness, Despair” album was a disaster. The band all of a sudden decided to play mid paced death metal with some industrial inspired sections here and there with a lot of groove metal thrown in. Fortunately the band succeeded to make a better album in that style, called “Diatribes”.
What makes Diatribes better than F.E.D. ? Simply the increased focus on this style since the band had two years to get accustomed even more to composing this kind of material. The songs on Diatribes are just better, being more cacthy and compact.
Now, apart from being better than its predecessor, there still is a reason it isn’t a highlight in their career. For one, the band is borrowing too much ideas from other bands. Whereas they were trendsetters once, on this album they’re followers, not leaders. Better said, “Borrowers, not leaders”.
"Greed Killing" has great ideas and riffs but in combination with Barney's vocals it’s just not catchy nor melodic nor brutal enough. "My Own Worst Enemy" combines groove metal with an incidental black metal riff and an intro that could've been written for Meathook Seed. The funky drum intro on "Just rewards" is missing the point because it is – de facto - not funky. Nor does not possess the right feeling of groove. The drums sound like Fear Factory in the wrong kind of way. The groove of "Placate, Sedate, Eradicate" is much better (also great backing screams). Furthermore, until vocals join in, the song "Take The Strain" could've come straight from Anthrax' Stomp 442! "Cursed to Crawl" is a failed attempt at incorporating too much groove and rap. Napalm Bizkit!
I could go on but I’ll just mention the real highlight next. For those who remember some old ND songs with Justin Broadrick on guitar like “What Man Can Do” or “Death By Manipulation” (check out their 1986 From Enslavement demo for those!) or even “Contemptuous” on their ’92 Utopia Banished album, “Cold Forgiveness” is not that big a surprise but still a refreshing moment. It’s an industrial song with many layers of creepyness. It is the best and most daring experiment on the album.
The crustcore section of titletrack is great and the song as a whole the most dynamic of the album and one of the most aggressive ones here. Together with "Ripe for the Breaking" which is one of the few songs with a blast speed.
Apart from the lack of originality the album also often fails in terms of aggressiveness and energy. For a band like Napalm Death this cannot do. A lot of songs sound rather tame. I’m still not sure if this is caused by the bands performance, the production or both. It really doesn’t matter though since the album as whole is still not good enough to spend your money on unless you’re a die-hard Napalm Death collector.
Highlights: Ripe for the Breaking, Diatribes, Cold Forgiveness
It's not as bad as a lot of people would make you think, it's just boring. 'Diatribes' is probably the most widely disliked Napalm Death album they've put out, probably because it's not really much of a grindcore album, or even a death metal album for that matter. What it really reminds me of is a heavier, more brutal version of Sepultura's 'Chaos A.D.'; it's quite groove-laden and midpaced, with rather simple riffing and song structures throughout. It's really not very bad at all (unless you hate 'Chaos A.D.' and related works), but it's a very static Napalm Death album, and its place as the band's worst is probably legitimate. But if this is Napalm Death's worst, then they're better than just about any band out there as far as consistency goes.
There's one really, really bright spot on this album: the opening track, 'Greed Killing'. It's a fucking great song. It sounds nothing like anything else on this album or in the rest of Napalm Death's catalog for that matter, with its incredibly bright and evocative yet undeniably simple riffing and flawlessly bouncing and rolling drum and vocal rhythms. As far as what Napalm Death could do with the groove-based ingredients of this style, this song is probably the best that they could possibly come up with, and on its own, it's an essential part of their musical history. The five bucks I spent on this album were worth it for 'Greed Killing' alone.
The rest of the music doesn't fair quite so well. Aside from a couple memorable tracks such as 'Cursed To Crawl' and 'My Own Worst Enemy', the music on this CD is pretty dull and lifeless. It's the same thing that people would feel, again, with the change from Sepultura's 'Arise' to 'Chaos A.D.'. High-speed, aggressive riffing transforming into midpaced, groovy, textured pieces has generally never been a particularly welcome move in the metal scene, and this is another instance of where it objectively pretty much fails. None of the grooves are very compelling, and though there's a pretty great drum performance throughout by Danny Herrera, he's not backed up with riffs of any magnitude or import. Barney Greenway's overly straightforward vocal performance (apart from a few attempts at spoken word drama) just round out a generally uninspired and unnecessary album.
Eh, it's not an album I regret buying. 'Greed Killing' is an amazing track, and the rest doesn't offend me. It's of course the worst full-length in Napalm Death's catalog, and it's not an album that I can imagine anyone would say is a shining moment in their history or metal in general, but it's not the musical travesty that many people make it out to be. It's just that it's a merely average album from Napalm Death, which makes it by comparison seem like a musical Holocaust. Not bad, but not very good either.
First of all, before I begin let me say that I do also own Harmony Corruption. I do like that one better (on most days, at least), and I perfectly understand that Diatribes is not like older Napalm Death. In fact, it's a completely different kind of music. I'd call it groove/grind, or death/groove, or something. Anyway, onto the review.
Vocals- Barney whatever-his-name-is sounded better on Harmony Corruption. Here, he sounds like he's blown his vocal cords or something. That's not to say that he sounds bad, but his voice is one of many differences that you will find between this and anything else from Napalm Death.
Drums- Yes, there are far less blastbeats on this album, and only 2-3 or so D-beats (I adore D-beats). Yes, there is more of a focus on slow/ midtempo beats. Oh well, some people like that. Besides, when you think about it, unless you're talking about blastbeats, a slower beat tends to be heavier than a faster one (think doom metal). In regards to the drumming aside from blastbeats and D-beats, the percussion is... not technical, no, not that but... unorthodox sounding, different. Also there is heavy use of toms here. I thought that was cool.
Guitars/ Bass- Yes, the guitars are "groove" oriented and not really that much like traditional Napalm Death guitarwork. But it's not really like other typical groove metal bands; it's more akin to something like DevilDriver, but more modern rock-like (maybe if you like DevilDriver, you'll like this). Remember that despite this drastic change in style and musical approach, Napalm Death is still a death metal/ grind band. There were some songs that used an accoustic guitar or some kind of strange tuning. I guess that's not unheard of in death metal or groove metal, but it seems kind of strange here. When bass is audible, it is good, but kind of numetal-like. Some people might not like that, in fact they might hate it and destroy the blasphemy that is this album. Does anyone get the idea that this is like the death metal equivalent of numetal? Funny, huh...
Lyrics- Societal/ personal/ political. They're not bad lyrics in any respect, but they tend not to be very involved, lots of repetition of the same phrases over and over again. They're very interesting if you read the lyrics book.
I agree with the last guy, buy an older Napalm Death album FIRST!!! I actually bought Diatribes before Harmony Corruption, and I listened to it and I said "Where are all the blastbeats?!? I thought they were a grind band." So the next day I went back to the store and bought Harmony Corruption. It's not that Diatribes is bad, it's actually pretty decent, but in order to really appreciate it you must first be able to appreciate things like less blasting, slower tempos, groove metal, etc. If you like those things, you'll probably like this; if not, stick with more ordinary sounding death metal/ grindcore.
Recommended tracks- 2, 3 (blastbeat), 6, 8 (blastbeat), 9 (beware of start/ stop guitarwork), 10 (blastbeat), 12
“Fear, Emptiness, Despair” was the first Napalm Death album that disappointed me. On that album the band really started to move away from their traditional grindcore sound. Instead they started to add dull mid-tempo and groove parts to their music. This evolution continues on “Diatribes”. Here the band are moving even further away from what I consider to be “Napalm Death” and I’m not pleased at all. My question is, where the hell is the grindcore? It’s certainly not here! A Napalm Death album consisting of twelve tracks out of which only three contain blast parts is ridiculous – it’s simply not “Napalm Death”. Seems the band got really tired of grindcore at this point in their career and wanted to experiment by writing slower stuff. Well, it didn’t work, not for me at least. This stuff is really boring and totally lacks extremity. The groovy mid-tempo parts abound and the riffing is many times as average as can be. Many of the songs are also too long and start to drag seriously. This pisses me off even more. I bet many mallcore kids would love to jump around to these groovy riffs but this is not what I want to hear from a band called Napalm Death.
However, it’s not only the music that sucks here, also the vocals suck. On “Diatribes” Barney’s vocals really annoy me. Yeah, his grunting has always been monotonous but on this album it sounds so one-dimensional it hurts (and no, the fact that they use clean vocals on some tracks doesn’t help matters at all). The only tracks that I like on this album are “Greed Killing” and “Cold Forgiveness”. On the first one the groovier approach actually works and the latter is more of a darker and experimental song with an ominous feel to it. The rest leaves me cold though and in my opinion “Diatribes” is easily one of the worst Napalm Death albums. However, if heavy’n’groovy metal with grunted vocals spiced with occasional blast beats sounds like your thing, “Diatribes” might be a good purchase. If you’re a newcomer to Napalm Death, I suggest you check out albums like “From Enslavement to Obliteration”, “Harmony Corruption”, “Utopia Banished” and “Order of the Leech” first. These will give you a much better idea of what Napalm Death are about musically.