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The Leaders Not Followers EP was the first release from Napalm Death in awhile that seemed to indicate they had a little fire left in their bellies. Coming off the abysmal Words From The Exit Wound, their last record for Earache, and incensed by their acrimonious split from that label, the Brummies cut this one-off covers EP for Relapse and all sounds indicated that things were looking up.
The selection here is pretty straight-forward: old-school hardcore, punk, grind and death from the early masters who influenced N.D.'s sound. Aside from the Slaughter cover, which I think is pretty dull and not really suited to N.D.'s style of play, these tracks are executed with an enthusiasm and authority missing from the band since the early '90's.
The covers that hew closer to home sound particularly savage: Death's "Back From The Dead" is nice to hear in updated fashion having never gone past the demo stage with Chuck's band; Repulsion's "Maggots In Your Coffin" is slightly polished and tightened but with an additional heaviness that I find agreeable; Raw Power's "Politicians" gains in unhinged fury, a stronger version than the original. It took me awhile to warm up to N.D.'s take on Pentagram's "Demonic Possession" as they add a stronger death metal feel to it but it's grown on me over time.
These strengths make this EP worth copping but I must be straight about some glaring weaknesses. First, the re-record of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off" is totally pointless -- the original version from Virus 100 is far superior; this version sounds sterilized. They also tack on six minutes of silence for a thirty-second interlude at the end making this a must-skip if you are listening to it on iTunes, etc. Also, the production is pretty flawed. Guitars, bass, vocals -- all impressive; but the drums sound like hot plasticized shit. The drums are terrible! Not in the playing but in the recording. Overly triggered, way loud and obnoxious, it's a problem that would occur again on Order Of The Leech.
After wandering in the wilderness for over five years, Leaders Not Followers hinted at a promise that would later be fulfilled on Napalm's full-on comeback, Enemy Of The Music Business. Despite any drawbacks, it's an enjoyable listen but in no way an essential one.
This EP of covers is best when Napalm Death is playing to their strengths: oldschool punk and grind tracks that are clearly near and dear to them. The other stuff, though, is rather middling and seems to be more an example of Napalm Death trying to show off other elements of their style rather than what they're best at. About half of the material on 'Leaders Not Followers' is nearly essential for the Napalm Death fan, while the other half is better viewed as bonus tracks.
The good: the opening Raw Power cover is just the sort of thing this disc should have been full of. The blitzing oldschool hardcore of 'Politicians' is a perfect match for Napalm Death's extreme and grinding style, and the band definitely does a lot to kick the original up a notch while staying true to the style. 'Maggots In Your Coffin' retains all the nastiness and brutality of the original, not appearing overly clean even with modern production and note-perfect playing. And of course there's the one every Napalm Death fan knows: the band's rousing cover of 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off' is a staple of live shows for a reason with its ferocious vocal and drum performances.
Not so good: everything else. The Slaughter and Death covers are of too fundamentally different a style from Napalm Death's origins to really be executed well. While they're true to the originals and played well enough, the band doesn't add any of their trademark fire to the compositions, so they're just sort of empty recreations. The Pentagram cover is really just a matter of being a mediocre song, and while Napalm Death do their best to liven it up with added brutality, it doesn't end up going anywhere.
The three solid tracks are really worth the price of admission, so I do recommend the Napalm Death fan pick this up, but I am a little disappointed in the rest of the tracks, which really would have been substantially better were they more similar in tone to the best three. Anyway, look at them as bonus tracks and be happy to chant 'YOU'RE! ROTTING! MAGGOTS! INYOURCOFFIN!"
I know, I know! Napalm Death are probably the most popular grindcore band of all time! They've been hailed as the creators of grindcore and that Scum is the best grindcore album ever! Well, I say no way! After hearing this EP, I can safely say Napalm Death have become one of the more average grind/death bands.
Leaders Not Followers is a cover album, part one in a series of two albums. Leaders Not Followers part. II, however, is an album, Leaders Not Followers part. I being an EP. This albums has covers of Death, Slaughter, Pentagram, Dead Kennedys, Raw Power and Repulsion. All great bands! The only thing that's bad about it is, well, Napalm Death are covering them.
Yes, yes... I know Napalm Death are a good band, but this album is nothing short of boring and dull. I was glad it was only 6 songs or I'd have never bought it in the first place. It's not it's bad beacuse Napalm Death are covering, it's because almost every song sounds the same, no matter how different the bands they're covering are.
All I can say is, what were Napalm Death thinking when they released this? The songs are boring, the drums sound horrible and everything just drags on and on and on. The guitars and vocals are done fairly well, but that's me in a good mood.
I would not recommend buying this at all and I'm sure anyone who likes Napalm Death would agree with me. Just buy Scum and go from there.