If you really look at it, from 2000’s Enemy of the Music Business onward, Napalm Death has simply been lights-out. A fifteen-year, now-seven-album stretch like that from any band would command respect, but for one entering its 35th year of existence later this year? That’s special. Bands simply aren’t supposed to have that kind of run left in the tank after that much time in the game. And yet, there’s nothing about the band’s new album, Apex Predator – Easy Meat, to suggest they’ll be slowing down any time soon. On this, their 15th head-crushing venture into sheer brutality, the British grindcore legends sound as vital and aggressive as ever.
And what’s the target of that aggression? This time out, Barney, Shane & Co. found their muse in the tragic, April 2013, Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh. Over the album’s 40-minute run time, they translate it into a relentless, 14-song assault on modern slavery and the “apex predators” (capitalism) that perpetuate this system of abuse against the “easy meat” (sweatshop workers).
The band sows the seeds of its frustration right from the get-go, but in a different manner than you might expect. The titular opening track is a slow, sullen thing, with a Gregorian-chant-like introduction that somehow ends up not being the creepiest thing here. Absent the typical chaos, the plights of our victims (those who keep “lebensraum in landfill” and “tail the higher caste and shovel whatever foulness they excrete”) ring out perfectly clearly. There’s a similar resonance during the later pace-changer, “Dear Slum Landlord…,” which depicts a protagonist with “face shaved on stone and rhythmically clubbed.” When you factor in the chilling sonic backdrops these tracks create, don’t be surprised when the imagery lingers with you afterward.
Don’t worry, though; there’s still plenty of savagery to go around. Right from the opening seconds of “Smash A Single Digit,” the band sinks its jaws in and rips its way through five songs of utter mayhem. All of the qualities you look for in a Napalm Death track—Barney’s infernal roar, Mitch Harris’s unforgiving guitar attack, a Danny Herrera master-class on drums—are here in full force, and the band runs positively rampant throughout. And while all the mayhem does begin to blend together a bit during the second half of the album, all it takes is “Hierarchies” to snap you out of it; there might not be a catchier thing on the whole album than the grooving, thrashy riff that sets the song’s tone.
All in all, it’s a terrific album—a 40-minute onslaught that will simply motor by. You can’t help but wonder what sort of devil the band’s befriended over the years, and what exactly they’ve had to give up in exchange for this kind of quality—both here on Apex Predator and throughout their entire renaissance. Put this thing on, crank the volume, and get ready for a kick-in-the-ass.
Keep it heavy,