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It goes without saying that Napalm Death are one of the most influential bands in metal (and punk) history. I mean, these guys were already underground legends by the time they released “Scum” and when they released the colossal “Smear Campaign” they had become untouchable.
Their latest album is comparable to their 2006 effort in the sense that it is fast and aggressive in the vein of their first two albums, but with a modern metal production and more mature songwriting. Hell, the first four songs here could have easily been on “Smear Campaign” without any trouble. If someone enjoyed the aforementioned album, he could easily enjoy these songs as well. But after “On the brink of extinction” the album takes a U-turn in terms of the feeling of the songs, and goes into darker territory. The atmosphere in the songs after comes in through the added effects on the vocals and the odd riffs most of the time, but to be honest I can't really place my finger on it. Atmosphere can't really be described in words, but the title track (and the song after that) is a perfect example of this. The dark feeling is a firm nod to “Harmony Corruption” but other than that, the rest of the songs aren't much different. The song structures are very free flowing and spontaneous, but at the same time they feel strong and focused too. The first two songs, Diktat and Strongarm display the album's mature yet chaotic songs in the best way.
The individual performances on this album are top notch, which has been mentioned by the other reviewers also. Every member of the band is in top form, and this is the main reason why the album feels so tight. The legendary Barney Greenway also delivers one of his best vocal performances, the best since “Harmony Corruption” in my opinion. His growls sound mechanical at times but not forced at all and he just oozes charisma. His high pitched screams have the power to make the songs become 10% better for a short period of time. The riffs here are brilliant, more catchy than in “Smear Campaign” and also show good variety, from the thrashy riffs in “Passive Tense” and “On the brink of extinction” to the odd riffs in “Life and Limb” and “Work to Rule.”
Overall, I think this is a great album. Napalm Death have finally managed to strike a balance between the aggressiveness of their grindcore days with the focus of “Harmony Corruption.” 2009 has only just begun but I feel that this might as well be the albums of the year.