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So here we have the 14th full length offering by Napalm Death. The first thing to know about this album is that in interviews Shane Embury stated that they wanted this album to be a more experimental album than their more recent work (The Code is Red, Smear Campaign), which when I first read that, was somewhat worried. The last time Napalm Death was experimental was the mid 90s, which, though the 4 albums they released in that era were decent, it was nothing compared to what they were capable of. That means that they sacrificed their trademark brutality and speed for a more laid back and semi-fierce sound. Skip forward to late November 2008, I find a download of the album on the internet. Turns out the word experimental has either been redefined, or was code for "we are going to add some technical influences". For my review I'm going to disect the instruments/vocals.
Let's start with vocals. Barney is one of the lucky few whose vocals only become more powerful as time passes (with the possible exception of Harmony Corruption). Barney shows on this album that age doesn't do shit to hinder him. The best example of his vocal prowess can be found on track 3, Work To Rule. Here the first we hear of Barney is what can only be described as the bark of the hounds of hell as they are unleashed upon the world, not only does he give his most brutal performance yet, at the "bark" I alluded to previously he also shows off his fastest deliverance yet, which might tie into the aforementioned brutal depending on your opinion. Another shining example of vocal genious can be found at about the halfway mark of the same song, either the band use some major distortion or Barney is capable of vocals so haunting and brutal, Satan would shit himself. Besides that it's what you would generally expect out of Barney, pissed off as fuck vocals. Another thing to mention is the dragged out and creepy/cringe-worthy vocals he does in the bands slower doom-ish songs (Smear Campaign title track), they are still present on this album, but are balanced out at a 95-5 ratio with the rest of the vocals (95 being traditional Barney), with the only song being entirely composed of these, the bonus track Omnipresent Knife in Your Back, so unless you get limited edition no need to worry. Lastly in vocals I have to acknowledge Mitch and his insane high pitched screams, same as all other instances, but with each progressing album they are used more and more, and this is no exception.
Next we have the drums. Danny Herrera is a very talented drummer no doubt. Overall his drumming at any given moment on the album doesn't stand out more than other instances on the album because he does the same for every song, transition with speed of song, play fast as fuck, slow it down, repeat. Though something about him that may be interesting is that he has maintained that with Napalm Death he does his blast beats with one hand only, the reason that this is impressive is because, on past albums that is obvious because the drums have a "one-sided" feel to them (they sound slightly flat and distanced), but on this album that sound is gone, and he plays faster than he ever has before, so either he decided to go two handed, or he is getting even more talented than before.
Guitar up. Mitch Harris has been a driving force in Napalm Death for the majority of it's existence. Here on TWFNS he is no different. He is where most of the experimentation comes in, as I said before, experimental in this case means, some technical influences. He keeps for the majority of all songs the traditional Napalm Death song structure, but in some moments he throws in some classic Cryptopsy like technical riffing, which adds to the overall atmosophere of this album which comes together as Napalm Death's most impressive effort yet. Harris' most stand out moment on this album is the fairly rare grind solo. By fairly rare grind solo I mean that in modern grind, few if any bands do solos, and the ones that do sound like shit in a blender. But what we have here is the originators of grind (Repulsion, Carcass, and Terrorizer didn't create it, they evolved it) and they are not bound by modern grind protocol. The solo is towards the 3/4 mark on track 13 A No-Sided Argument, this solo is nothing that will stick with you for the rest of your life, but is slightly impressive. Normally this would take away from the score, but as solos aren't a staple in grind it only gives extra credit.
The bass is last. Bass is something one doesn't expect to see much of in modern death or grind, and yet here we have Shane Embury playing his soul out. Usually I wouldn't notice the bass in a song unless it is so obvious a deaf person could tell you it was there. But it seems there is an exception to every rule. What is impressive here is that Shane demands your attention and respect, and if you ignore the bass will kick your ass. Now another exemplary moment of skill shown by Shane I discovered by drinking 2 and 1/2 liters of Mountain Dew and eating a gelato, this wired me to the extreme and gave me superhuman senses of smell and hearing, the smelling was inconvenient, but the hearing part made it possible to hear and make out every single note of the bass, and I saw just how intricate the bass was and how it was integral to the song.
Thats it for my review and here is the synopsis:
Standouts: All, especially tracks 3 and 13.
Lastly, even if you are not a fan of grind, give this album a chance.