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'Fear, Emptiness, Despair' is really the album that 'Diatribes' should have been; it's more exciting than that release while not sacrificing any of the experimental elements that defined mid-era Napalm Death. It's not a full-fledged success, and it's certainly one of the weaker entries in Napalm Death's catalog, but it achieves its goals of experimentation and mid-paced introspection much better than 'Diatribes' managed to. It's a pretty crucial linchpin in the Napalm Death discography, as it signals the switch of the band from death/grind to a more experimental breed of grooving death metal that most found rather tepid. I kind of like it when I'm in the mood, but I certainly see where most would dislike it.
Now granted this isn't quite as experimental as 'Diatribes'; it has a lot of genuinely death/grind riffs and blast beats, but it's certainly a big departure from 'Utopia Banished'. There's a much higher emphasis on grooves and upper midpaced riffing rather than diabolical tremolo and the mood has a great deal of uncertainty amidst the aggression; more like wandering through the fog after the bombing than undergoing the barrage itself. The rhythms are less straightforward, and though it's not a drum-dominated album, that instrument has a great deal more sway over the direction of the songs than on previous Napalm Death releases. The production is rounded but still kind of flat and lacking abrasiveness, especially in the overly clean guitar tone; a bit of a filthier sound would have done wonders for this release.
But then again, I don't know how much you could do for an album like this. It's more interesting than 'Diatribes' but most of the songs are still fundamentally unmemorable. None of the riffs or songs stick out in my mind despite the relative professionalism of their construction, and while it's pleasing when it's on, the album doesn't remain in the mind for more than ten seconds after it stops spinning. The fact is that Napalm Death was always a better death/grind band than experimental entity, so an album like this is really a matter of how little the band fails rather than how much it succeeds. I admire Napalm Death's attempt to do something new(ish) and interesting with releases such as these, but it's ultimately an unnecessary part of the catalog.
There's little to say about this music because there's just not that much content there; the riffs all seem to be variations of each other and it's the same case with the songs. It's not necessarily a BAD album, just surprisingly generic coming from a band like Napalm Death. I can't really recommend it but I suppose if you find it for a low price in a bargain bin somewhere it wouldn't hurt to grab. There's worse stuff, but I'd recommend one pick up other Napalm Death releases before this one.