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'Fear, Emptiness, Despair' is the first Napalm Death (ND from now on) album I got, thanks to Earache sampler featuring 'Hung' and 'Plague Rages'. I had heard the band before on MTV's Headbanger's Ball show, but that's not the right place for this kind of music, is it? No, it sounded like unintelligent noise on my shit telly.
Being the pioneers of grindcore, ND's fifth album has long songs (but no original members). Yes, the band wanted to slow down a bit, because getting bored on fast-as-fuck stuff. Understandable, I think. ND didn't sell out. This is sick music, much sicker than majority of older stuff from the band. I'm not a fan of 10 second songs, they usually bore me. Based on grincore, the band expanded into new territories with this album. Cold industrial feel make the album brutal experience like real life. Mitch Harris' (ex-Righteous Pigs, ex-Defecation, Meathook Seed) and Jesse Pintado's (ex-Terrorizer, Lock Up) sharp guitars bore into listener's brain without remorse, leaving shards of cutter in grey mass to cause traumas. Experimenting with different guitar tones, there's varying atmosphere fitting with words "fear", "emptiness" and "despair". Death metal bits are still in, thanks to heavy, thick guitar sound and some riffing. Coarse tones are warmer, but still fucking lethal! Dissonance is ever present. There's very fast bits in some songs, just try 'Primed Time' and 'Throwaway', but they always have slower parts. The slower movements bring in loads of groove, and better possibilities to survive moshing and headbanging this album will surely cause. Danny Herrera's drumming is not only incredibly fast at parts, but also very accurate. His style is unimitable. Time changes and original rhythms still include more straight blast beats, double kick drumming and punky beats, but usually all carry Mr. Herrera's signature. Shane Embury's (ex-Brujeria, ex-Unseen Terror, ex-Malformed Earthborn, Lock Up) bass is heavy and distortion rips. This music is closest to controlled chaos, that I've heard.
Mark "Barney" Greenway (ex-Benediction, ex-Extreme Noise Terror) barks (his trademark) his lungs out. The man shouts, growls and generally sounds as angry as possible. Sometimes he does his thing at different tempo (when he feeling ready to go for it), which is a nod to older, more chaotic times of ND. There's no hint of melody in the man's voice, he uses tempos. Mr. Harris provides some very fucking nasty inhuman shrieks. Social commentary (nuclear weapons race, racism etc.) is a big part of lyrical theme, but also feelings of a wretched human being. Suicidal thoughts, loss of friends, loss of individuality, such topics. Simplistic cover art is good all around and the lyrics are printed, although Mr. Greenway's outlet is comprehensible this time.
The album was recorded by Pete Coleman, but remastered by Colin Richardson. As mentioned, heavy guitars are very thick, possibly layered. Sharp guitars and noises can really send shooting pain through teeth. Bass adds very low frequencies. Together with heavy guitars a huge wall of sound is created. Drums are good. Tight snare might be a bit too echoing, making it a tad powerless and thin. Balanced well, vocals rage on the top, maybe feeling this way because they are only human thing (well, at least remotely, heh) here.
'Fear, Emptiness, Despair' sounds exactly what its title says. But how can it sound this good, then? A paradox. More coherent song writing and incredible performance from the band raise this album to classic rank. For me, this is the best Napalm Death.
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2004)