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Back From The Dead - 75%

televiper11, August 29th, 2012

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.