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Okay, but Napalm can do better - 72%

jdmunyon, July 27th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, 12" vinyl, Peaceville Records (Reissue)

Continuing War on Stupidity blasts out of your speakers, and you know that Napalm Death is definitely back, returning from their 90s experimentation and steamrolling forward with a "modern" sound that isn't death metal or grindcore, but some combination of the two which usually works incredibly well. Three minute songs of generally fast riffing along with blast beats, double bass, and d-beat drumming, covered with Barney's recognizable voice are the norm. Order of the Leech is generally faster and more chaotic than its predecessor Enemy of the Music Business, at the expense of a loss of memorability.

Quite simply, very few of these songs are as memorable as the average Napalm Death song in the 21st century, and compared to some of the best songs they've done recently, are made mostly irrelevant. Any and all of these songs would kill live, there is no doubt about this, and the release is more than perfectly serviceable for what you would want out of "modern" death metal/grindcore. If you just want to bang your head for 30 minutes, this'll work just fine. But I love Napalm Death for their memorability, for the dozens of songs that are permanently embedded in my mind just because of amazing songwriting and memorability, riffs and otherwise. And these just don't quite make the cut.

There is no bad song here, just several mediocre songs and a few that stand out. Continuing War on Stupidity works as a fine opener, and the middle section with the mid-paced riffing whilst Barney calls out homage to Celtic Frost is very much satisfying. One has to wonder though if this is simply due to this song's placement first in line that it is remembered, just like how The Great Capitulator as the final song is also particularly memorable.

Sandwiched between these two songs are ten songs which mostly run together. I can recall a riff here, a vocal line there, but I probably won't ever remember these songs in their entirety, which I can probably do for the entire Smear Campaign album, for example. It's not really like the songwriting is any different from the previous album or what comes later to any significant degree; somehow with this album, it just comes down to a general lack of memorability. Don't get me wrong, I'm listening to the album right now and in no way not enjoying myself, but if I think back on this listening session in a few hours, I still won't remember how many of these songs start or end, just the general structure of "fast riffing accompanied with either blast beats, double bass, or d-beats with Barney shouting over top of it all". Or if I actively remember a riff here or there, I probably won't be able to match it with the song it's in. Slower (well, read "mid-paced" since this is Napalm Death after all) moments immediately stick to mind for standing out and being relatively rare (middle of Continuing War on Stupidity, beginning of To Lower Yourself (Blind Servitude), um I'm pretty sure Narcoleptic has a decent mid-paced part in the middle but I already forget what it particularly sounds like, just that it's there...).

The production is pretty "chaotic", more so than Enemy of the Music Business at least. I do own the vinyl version which I recorded in Audacity and imported as MP3s, so I have to admit that the sound is "slightly different" than if, say, I listen to these songs on YouTube or somewhere (just due to the nature of vinyl and all of that). (Whether that is affecting my opinion of the album as opposed to if I had bought a CD and had exposure that way, I do not know.) Oh hey, another admittedly catchy moment: the fade-out of Lowest Common Denominator leading right into the beginning stomp of Forewarned Is Disarmed? is memorable enough. But now that the song is going and fast and all, all I can say is "Yeah, the guitar strings are being strummed in various patterns really fast and stuff", and I really can't say much else. I get the feeling that a slightly different guitar tone could have increased the memorability factor of these riffs a little bit. But back to the production, it's modern without being "too much", not much else to say about it.

This is still a perfectly fine album for the (modern) Napalm Death fan, but all of its siblings are simply better remembered. I would probably skip this album entirely if making a modern Napalm Death compilation for a friend (maybe The Great Capitulator would be tacked on since it has the funny "Total Black Trash Grind Freak from the Czech Republic" skit tacked on at the end). With a few songs to go everything is still mostly going through one ear and out the other, not making a strong lasting impression. I'm glad things will end on a strong note with The Great Capitulator, but this will probably remain my least reached-for modern Napalm Death album. I do prefer it to Utopia Banished and Words from the Exit Wound though (Fear, Emptiness, Despair and Distribes of course also get beat), which both also seem to lack the memorability factor that Napalm Death usually brings to the table.

Should the modern Napalm Death fan get this? It was my most recently acquired 21st century Napalm Death album, partially due to completion considerations, and it ranks below Enemy of the Music Business and everything from The Code... and forward as well. So... yes, but don't expect it to become a favorite.