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The Raging Plague - 92%

psychoticnicholai, March 18th, 2013

Fear, Emptiness, Despair in 1994 was noted by fans of Napalm Death as the band's full transition into their '90s sound template, a death/groove metal style which divided the fan base and gained some derision among metal heads for ND changing their sound and style. While many love to bash this album and blame it for their less noteworthy releases later in the 1990s, truth be told, it's not all that bad to listen to.

Fear, Emptiness, Despair has some of Napalm Death's most skilled guitar work and progressive songwriting out of all of their '90s material. It organized the chaotic grinding of their earlier albums into a newer, sleeker, more punishing package. As a stand alone album, it's really pretty sweet.

The album opens on a high, fast note with the rampaging song Twist The Knife (Slowly). After a few seconds of guitar build up, Barney kicks off the album with a savage roar, leading into guitar grooves that hit you with the force of a 10-story building collapsing. Barney's roaring helps the guitar along to create an atmosphere of uncontrolled chaos from which there is no escape. The lines "Unborn suffer, unborn suffer, unborn suffer the norm" only add to this destructive Molotov cocktail of a song. All in all, it is a damn satisfying song.

Hung starts off with a sliding two-note groove that is jarring and rousing at first. This riff, though, gets old after about a minute into the song. Feeling bored, I skipped the song about halfway through, but boy did I miss something at about the 2:45 mark in the song as it finally shows a bit of progression and goes into one of the gnarliest breakdowns ever conceived ten seconds later. This breakdown was enough to save me from completely disowning this song, but it doesn't save it from being skipped halfway most times I hear it. Needless to say, I have mixed feelings about this one.

Remain Nameless has more variation and compelling riffs and grooves that improve upon Hung's mistakes while keeping a similar formula. It has breaks and changes in the song that aren't as numerous on Hung and keeps the song interesting. It also has a neat breakdown at the end of the song, but if you think this is going to be an album of pointless, simple breakdowns, you are sorely mistaken. The breakdowns on these two songs are nice, smooth, and complex as opposed to deathcore-ish chugging. Also, these songs are the only ones on the album that follow a formula similar to one another. Remain Nameless is a good song, way better than Hung.

Plague Rages is seen as the big player on this album and it's the song that got featured in a music video and even a Beavis and Butthead skit. It has its own single as well, so that signifies some significance, but let's actually talk about the song for a minute.

Plague Rages has a tasty, twisting intro groove and is driven by the riffs alternating with Barney's vocals setting the angry stage for the song and building a chorus and lines at the end. Around the end of the song, the blast beats kick in and Barney is screaming "A PLAGUE RAGES!" at the top of his lungs, leading to a crashing conclusion of blast beats, slamming guitar grooves, and Barney's angered growling. This song is more than satisfying and is a savage, great listen.

More Than Meets The Eye is simpler than all the others before it, but works due to the fact that the song has rousing riffs and grooves and a chorus line that acts as a memorable rallying point. The song starts to show welcome signs of lingering grindcore influence around the middle before going back to the original riff towards the end of the song. Simple, but rousing and enjoyable.

The next three songs, Primed Time, State of Mind, and Armageddon X 7, all contrast and are similar to the first five songs, the similarity being the style of music played and the difference being that these songs are forgettable and generic groove metal that do little to draw you in or interest you. These songs are the ones I would not recommend listening to as you will not be impressed by their simplicity and how generic they are.

Retching on the Dirt and Fasting on Deception have more tasteful riffs and start to make things interesting once again. The intro to Fasting on Deception also has the second best intro on the album (the first being the intro to Twist the Knife). The riffage on both of these songs is also more complex and rhythmic than the last three songs, meaning they actually are engaging. These two songs are better than the last three and should keep most people engaged.

Throwaway shows elements of vestigial grindcore holding on from the band's early days and serves as a perfectly gloomy outro track. The blast beats and swirling tremolos create an atmosphere of grim depression and fear. Barney's vocals only add to the sense of bleak, delicious hopelessness that this song projects. This song creates the kind of desperation and gloom that many newbie black metallers try to create, but fail to do so. Recommended listen since this song is so jarring and depressive that it's awesome.

Overall, Fear, Emptiness, Despair is a good album with a few faults. Had something been done to spruce up or make songs 6 through 8 more interesting than this, album would've scored somewhere in the mid-90% range. Even so, Plague Rages, Twist the Knife (Slowly), and Throwaway are stellar tracks accompanied by many good ones (Hung, Remain Nameless, More than Meets the Eye, Retching on the Dirt, and Fasting on Deception). This album is a good listen and overall I enjoyed it and still see it as one of Napalm Death's better albums. It was worth the money I paid for it.