'Apex Predator - Easy Meat'

(Century Media records mediabook CD)

MARK: 88/100


The atmosphere's getting gloomier and more mordant as Napalm Death have recently given birth to a new full-length. Such a name has been around for over 30 years, although none of the original members are in the current line-up, and that's a reason for many detractors to attack them by saying they've been recycling themselves since Mick Harris left the band in order to create Scorn with the original members before the ship sank. This is a partially wrong statement, because Scorn deal with Industrial Metal and not Grind, while on the other hand it's true that some elements have been used and repeated in different albums so that this cycle of work and method is how the guys in this band earn a living, often writing stuff depending on what bands they'll be touring with. Polemics aside, this monicker has rightfully become a legend of Grindcore/Death with experimental taints and occasional Industrial elements, and this is the 15th studio album for the British/north American four-headed outfit following the EP "Our Pain Is Their Power" dated back to 2014.
There are several versions of this release also on vinyl and cassette and the one I'm analyzing is their 40-page booklet mediabook CD containing 3 bonus tracks
The raw, heavy and thick drums-oriented recording, mixing and mastering are by Russ Russell and do Embury's bass performance justice once and for all; only Mitch Harris' vocals were recorded at Studio Hostivar in the Czech Republic, but nobody would suspect that because the mixing is smooth in the extreme detail.
While I dedicate this review to the miners who have died today in a Ukraine mine blast, I inform you that the album is dedicated as usual to capitalism's and social injustice victims, this time in particular to the casualties at the Bangladeshi safety-less Rana Plaza factory disaster occurred a few years ago, while the lyrics centre around the following topics in detail: predators and their adulators, their easy preys, the weakness deriving from being alone, separate and conquered, the poor being screwed, hardness of life and challenges to take, men getting exploited and then dumped, mankind's awakening, the daily grinding served by a strong-arm state acting strong only to the harmless, bosses with our heads underfoot, division between the caste and the human sludge, a coup without bloodletting has no rights or wrongs, producing our offspring in captivity, cabals controlling our food, nature and our liberties, nature rape, the desperate paying, bowing and scraping, more and more on their knees, industrialization and anxiety, a sweatshop turned to a tomb.
The cover is original and raw and most of the booklet graphics are made of a collage of 3 pieces from different subjects; while the artwork is clear, the lyrics have become with the years more and more educated, subtle and bearers as usual of more than one interpretation in most instances. They often require the consultation of a dictionary, except for Embury's, definitely easier and straightier than Greenway's. What I didn't like is the absence of a tracklist somewhere in the package.

Threatening Gregorian chants where Barney's Birmingham accent comes out shamelessly and noises open the slow and martial-paced "Apex Predator - Easy Meat", later reached by ritual drumming, metallic clangs, effected vocals and glass-paper screams reminding the ones from the "From Enslavement to Obliteration" opener only in the finale; it's a homage to Industrial bands, mixing equally Lustmord, Einstürzende Neubauten and Scorn.
The short "Smash A Single Digit" is a frantic chip ruled by a neckbreaking riff and tight drumming and is accompanied by a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33OZfCUsomk), whereas "Metaphorically Screw You" is Grind bludgeoning with a central wicked riff connected to the ones from "Fear, Emptiness and Despair", with Barney's barking in top form and further intense vocals comparable to Otep's at the nth power.
After a low-fi beginning, "How the Years Condemn" recurs to distorted bass and later it bursts by an irresistible twisted riff; amazing is the following mid-tempo riff and the drumming set into the main context, bringing the glory of "Incinerator" and "Primed Time" together to create a new entity with Greenway's vocals' effect similar to a hurricane's.
With "Stubborn Stains" the drums and the rhythm pattern bring references back to "Utopia Banished", adding afterwards a more modern riff proving Harris' songwriting hasn't got dry after all these years; the excellent recording gives justice to a song unlike from what happened in the 1994 and 1992 albums.
Another caustic piece timing around two minutes, "Timeless Flogging" contains vintage and modern riffs of Grind and Hardcore tradition following one after another. A sublime ear-demolisher with ten seconds of really fast blastbeat and slower drumming. Fit for stagedivers of the new decade!
Slow, using clean vocals as if it were a doleful prayer, "Dear Slum Landlord..." later alternates them with yelled vocals - sometimes coming two-layered, expanding the territories that Napalm mind-bending Death are able to explore without getting swamped, and recurring to Industrial samples in the backdrop.
"Cesspits" has to be appraised thanks to mid and fast-tempos swapped, riffs with double vocals coming after; added to the sonic party is the devastating hyperfast blastbeat, the speediest of the album, deign of the act's sophomore album pearls; a few seconds later appears a crushing riff till the end clearly reminding "Mass Appeal Madness" arrives as punctual as the Grim Reaper's visit. Not the most original song but worth the buying the whole digipack in my judgement.
In for HC Punk with hacksaw guitars and an array of pissed-off vocals going back to Raw Power's golden era inciting to stagedive incessantly? Then your favourite track can't but be "Bloodless Coup", rife with very rapid evolving time signatures; this composition is a bit harder to assimilate, and finishes with a blastbeat and a quick early-Napalm Death riff to sustain it.
You can feel "Beyond the Pale" was written by Harris, because it's freaking old-school with stopped drums, mid-pace riff-filled all the song along and an easy to remember refrain, but the precision, form and variety of scorching vocals delivered are something unheard in the old Napalm brain-slashing Death records; the jazzy drum signatures, the distorted vocals and the circular riffs (one relatively slow and an early Death Metal one) at the end are the icy on the cake of a song that keeps you waving your head back and forth in a manner one can't resist. If you listen to this song carefully you can find references to Mastic Scum as well as early Carcass as to guitar sounds and style.
Classic Grind and a bit of GoreGrind (Mexico's Disgorge to give you an example) till a riff sounding like an unreleased bonus of "Utopia Banished" making two entrances is what you have got to expect from "Stunt Your Growth".
An incendiary main riff conducts the listener along all of the meanders of "Hierarchies", also displaying a twice set structure with clean vocals unusual to the quartet and a Metal/Rock axe solo within a Grind 'n' Roll frame; this song is so far from the combo's canons that it sounds like from another band, and the explanation is that this track was composed by Embury (in my opinion the group's best songwriter and the one with the freshest ideas).
Without a pause does "One-Eyed" start, a pretty rapid song that at a certain moment even unfolds a Black Metal riff till a mid-tempo break interrupted by the same riff; I adore this genial song also because it contains the most brutal vocals and back-up vokillz of the record, try and listen if you don't believe!
"What Is Past Is Prologue" is based upon a riff with reminescences of "Mentally Murdered" and others more open and lively until the break with almost soloing sharp bass lines and mighty drum whacks with ethereal slightly delayed vocals opening a mostly instrumental interlude sucking into another dimension what's left of our brains until the main riffing returns.
A sheer sonic massacre, "Oh So Pseudo" shows Barney's spiteful voice with the spotlight turned on it; piles of diverse vocals, dynamic rifferama on the trail of "Greed Killing" come after; the drummer's performance is heterogeneous and elaborated, and he's the vital tool to this song with the finest drums along the 17 tracks.
"Adversarial/Copulating Snakes" seems an excerpt from the series of songs written for "Fear, Emptiness and Despair" that somehow didn't see the light back then, enriched by several double bass bursts, a melting blast alà "Harmony Corruption" and hysteric screams. What follows is a break reconnecting with the opener starting the second part of the piece, so dark and chilling.
G-Anx are covered at the end: delicate piano lines anticipate some urticant Punk/Grind sounding like a "Nazi Punks Fuck off" 2.0; these are actually two tracks executed as one glued cover version, "Clouds of Cancer" and "Victims of Ignorance" bringing the total sum of time beyond 47 minutes and leaving me with ears bleeding and a smile on my face I thought lost forever.

"Apex Predator - Easy Meat" sums up the previous episodes of the Napalms, being an efficient concoction of several different styles, but 3, 4 times sounding like a self rip-off. The songwriting is skilled but occasionally reports brief signs of tiredness; mind, I'm being very, very demanding with this band, because it's my favourite act, secondly because they've been around so long and must be experienced in the extreme and lastly since I always want the best music offered from these guys; the recording is good, dirty as the band has always preferred yet intelligible enough.
Danny's drumming style isn't as creative and bold as Mick Harris', who I still prefer, not because he was 4/4-servile, all the contrary, but due to the fact that the old material was plainly dictated and ruled by his drumbeats and that gave any song more immediate impact, whereas now the songs are more guitar- and voice-dominated and therefore need more time and listens to be assimilated. These are the only slightly negative points in a high quality album made precious by 2 main vocalists with Barney expressing so many nuances I have lost count: despite the other two back up vocalists, he can yell, scream, sing clean and leave a mark where others just can't; I do believe he's an underestimated talented extreme singer who ought to be taken heed of more than what's now. He doesn't growl anymore in the studio but he can adapt to any facade of Hardcore, Punk, Grind, Death, Industrial and Experimental Metal line his mates write for him.
Finally, Mitch Harris' guitar lines, riffs and so forth certainly don't surprise but also don't disappoint.
This is not the easiest album from the seasoned four-piece, even though it keeps the signatures and characteristics to the bone; it grows listen after listen, and that's why I don't recommend beginners start with this record; it is necessary to respect the timeline and listen to the old stuff in chronological order, as this appears to be the only philologically correct way to understand the evolution that brought the four musicians to this stage.
An album that destroys and stirs uprising the way we've been accustomed by the four giants, with earth-shaking drum work, biting gritting guitars, pummelling bass lines and vocals that will make a good number of Deathcore bands scurry away like frightened vermin.


Line-up on this record:
Mark 'Barney' Greenway - lead v. (ex-Benediction, Colostomy, Extreme Noise Terror)
Danny Herrera - d. (also in Venomous Concept, ex-Anaal Nathrakh)
Mitch Harris - g., backup v. (also in Absolute Power, Defecation, Menace, Righteous Pigs, ex-Meathook Seed, Goatlord (live), Regurgitation)
Shane Embury
- bass g. (also in Absolute Power, Bent Sea, Brujeria, Insidious Disease, Liquid Graveyard, Lock Up, Menace, Venomous Concept, War Of The Second Dragon, Hicks Kinison, Mutation, Tronos, ex-Azagthoth, Blood From The Soul, Intestinal Infestation, Meathook Seed, Unseen Terror, Warhammer, Anaal Nathrakh (live), Drop Dead, Malformed Earthborn)



Official sites:


-Halloween (demo - 1982)
-Kak (demo - 1983)
-Unpopular Yawns of Middle Class Warfare (demo - 1983)
-Hatred Surge (demo - 1985)
-From Enslavement to Obliteration (demo - 1986)
-Scum (demo - 1986)
-Scum (album - 1987)
-The Peel Sessions (EP - 1987)
-From Enslavement to Obliteration (album - 1988)
-The Curse (single - 1988)
-Napalm Death/S.O.B. (split - 1989)
-The Peel Sessions (Compilation - 1989)
-Live EP (EP - 1989)
-You Suffer - Mega Armageddon Death pt. 3 (single - 1989)
-Mentally Murdered (single - 1989)
-Mentally Murdered (EP - 1989)
-Napalm Death/Electro Hippies (split - 1989)
-Harmony Corruption (CD - 1990)
-Suffer the Children (EP - 1990)
-Suffer the Children (video - 1990)
-John Zorn/Napalm Death (split - 1990)
-Live Corruption (video - 1990)
-Mass Appeal Madness (EP - 1991)
-Death by Manipulation (compilation - 1991)
-Malignant Trait (EP - 1992)
-Utopia Banished (CD - 1992)
-The World Keeps Turning EP (EP - 1992)
-One and the Same (7" - 1992)
-Live Corruption (live album - 1993)
-Nazi Punks Fuck off (single - 1993)
-Hung (single - 1994)
-Fear, Emptiness and Despair (CD - 1994)
-More Than Meets the Eye (single - 1994)
-Greed Killing (EP - 1995)
-Cursed to Crawl/Greed Killing (single - 1995)
-Cursed to Tour (split - 1996)
-Diatribes (CD - 1996)
-In Tongues We Speak (split - 1997)
-Inside the Torn Apart (CD - 1997)
-Breed to Breathe (split - 1997)
-Bootlegged in Japan (live album - 1998)
-Words from the Exit Wound (CD - 1998)
-The Infiltrator/Next of Kind to Chaos (cassette - 1998)
-Leaders Not Followers (EP - 1999)
-The Complete Radio One Sessions (compilation - 2000)
-Enemy of the Music Business (CD - 2000)
-The DVD (video - 2001)
-Order of the Leech (CD - 2002)
-The Leech Sampler (CD - 2002)
-Noise for Music's Sake (compilation - 2003)
-Punishment in Capitals (live album - 2003)
-Punishment in Capitals (video - 2003)
-Leaders Not Followers: part 2 (compilation - 2004)
-Tsunami Benefit (split - 2005)
-The Code Is Red...Long Live the Code (CD - 2005)
-Smear Campaign (CD - 2006)
-Time Waits for No Slave (CD - 2009)
-Napalm Death vs Nasum - Live in Japan - Grind Kaijyu Attack! (split - 2009)
-Death Metal Live (split video - 2009)
-Diatribes/Greed Killing/Bootlegged in Japan (boxed set - 2010)
-Live at Rock City (live album - 2010)
-Inside the Torn Apart/Words from the Exit Wound/Breed to Breathe (boxed set - 2010)
-Legacy Was Yesterday (single - 2011)
-Analysis Paralysis (single - 2012)
-Utilitarian (CD - 2012)
-Converge/Napalm Death (split - 2012)
-Scum/From Enslavement to Obliteration/Harmony Corruption/Utopia Banished (boxed set - 2012)
-Napalm Death/Insect Warfare (split - 2013)
-Sugar Daddy Live Split Series 9 (split - 2013)
-To Go off and Things (single - 2014)
-The Earache Peel Sessions (compilation - 2014)
-Our Pain Is Their Power (EP - 2014)
-Apex Predator - Easy Meat (CD - 2015)

k.A. 1985-1986 Demos 1  
k.A. Bought... Enslaved... Crushed / Untitled 1  
k.A. Christening Of The Blind 1  
k.A. Christmas Corruption 1  
k.A. Christmas Corruption 1  
k.A. Diabolos Elixier 1  
k.A. Extremity Retains 5  
k.A. The Grindcrusher Tour 2  
k.A. Hate In Utopia 1  
k.A. Hatred Surge From Enslavement To Obliteration - 1985-1986 Demos 1  
k.A. The Peel Sessions & Rarities 1  
1987 Live At Wakken, Belgium 1  
1987 Live Obliteration Of Scum 1  
1988 The Peel Sessions / Mentally Murdered 1  
1989 Live 3  
1989 Live, Bremen Aladin 19.12.1989 1  
1990 3mlp 1  
1990 Death In Vietnam 4  
1992 Corridors Of Blood 1  
1992 The World Keeps Turning 1  
1996 Demo 1985 / Live 1988 1  
1998 Human Garbage 1  
2002 Live-Split 1  
2002 Napalm Death / Carcass 3  
2003 Back From The Dead / Hatred Surge 2  
2004 A Holocaust In Your Head Tour 1988 / Grindcrusher Tour 1988-89 1  
2005 Hatred Surge Demo 1985 2  
2009 Forgotten Existence / Hatred Surge 2  
2010 Rare Tracks 86-88 1  
2012 Live In Tokyo, July 1989