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A powerhouse - 87%

duncang, February 5th, 2009

It would be lying to claim that any other band is as influential to grindcore, or extreme music in the UK, as Napalm Death. Unfortunately it would also be lying to claim that throughout their near-30 year career, they have consistently managed to make albums that provide more than a quick break from the religious spinning of ‘Scum’ and ‘From Enslavement To Obliteration’. Sure, they were still good but there was always something a little off about their death metal output. Now, ladies and gents, for the moment of truth; the choice between two cliché reviewing terms: ‘Until now’ or ‘This is no exception.’ Neither are particularly favourable in my books, but I think on this occasion a bit of dramatic tension is needed. There was always something a little off about Napalm Death’s death metal output...

Until now. It should be fairly clear from the first, oh, four seconds of opener ‘Strong-Arm’ that this clicks. Maybe not surprising considering that four seconds is all the time you even get for some Napalm songs to click, but I’ll be damned if ‘Time Waits For No Slave’ doesn’t start as it means to go on. There is a fine balance here; the attack switches from mid-tempo death to a grindier velocity often enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, yet everything is wrapped up in one very aggressive sonic package, courtesy of Mr. Shane Embury. It’s amazing how much one instrument can do for a sound; guitarist Mitch Harris doesn’t even have to be following a riff for the paired bass and guitar to sound like an entire house of bricks flying through your window. Then again these guys always did know how to write a riff, and it shows on this record time and again.

Barney Greenway is a loveable character; his no-nonsense live performances are the stuff of legend. However, as soon as he lets rip on ‘Time Waits For No Slave’, he commands your attention simply through his own ability. Despite arguably being a little on the layer-heavy side at times, the range and power in his voice is stronger than it has been for a long time. Lyrically expectations are met in typical Napalm style, lots of nice vocabulary which masks the politics as much as it enhances it at times. Perhaps his days as young radical are behind him, but Barney’s still entitled to postpone the armchair, instead choosing to wax lyrical about stuff that pisses him off.

Something a little puzzling about ‘Time Waits For No Slave’ is how, despite being very solid, it becomes very tempting at times to listen to the really outstanding tracks and leave the rest unloved. The first six tracks kick enough ass for the entire album, but it’s a 14-track, 50 minute piece of work and despite the best efforts of ‘Procrastination On The Empty Vessel’ and ‘A No-Sided Argument’, it can be a struggle to let the thing play through without having to listen to ‘Diktat’ another three times. Still, it’s no time to complain when Napalm Death have finally released an album this good again, and boy is it. Let’s just hope they can keep it up.