I’ve had a long relationship with Napalm Death and my ears. Doesn’t seem like that long, but yeah, it’s been a while. A bit of a background here: I first turn to heavy metal after listening to Master of Puppets (Metallica) via a cassette tape that accidentally got left in my case after a Homecoming decorating thing in high school. That was 1987. My ears craved heavier sounds ever since. The true crossover was when I moved to Wichita, Kansas and started hanging out at the Rock Island. Ultimately, I was lead to Napalm Death.
Utilitarian is their latest full length release. A cursory glance at amazon.com reviews praise it with one thinking they have strayed too far from their roots. Bands grow, musicians grow, creativity is rampant. And Napalm Death is a band that has grown over the years, gradually.
1. Circumspect – The first track on the album is a mellow, industrial sounding tune with discernible notes as we ease into heavier sounds. A flow and sway is evident with undertones of harmonious keyboards. I can picture walking into a house, armed to the teeth, ready to make heads roll.
2. Errors in the Signals – And here is were the heads begin to roll, hair flying, with a faster, more frantic beat. The thrash roots are evident here, but even win the anger of speed and heaviness, in the bridge, there is the sloshing melody that keeps you undulating.
3. Everyday Pox – SAX! Ballsy move here, but it works.
4. Protection Racket – Nothing for me stood out on this track.
5. – The Wolf I Feed – One of the catchier songs on the album. At about the 1:05 mark, the vocal effect shift reminds me of Burton C Bell’s melodic voice in Fear Factory.
6. Quarantined – Here is your old school thrash song. To the individual know nothing reviewer who gave this album 1 star on amazon, they obviously did not listen to this track. Just close your eyes and visualize the swirling pit, like blood pumping through the veins of rock.
7. Fall on Their Swords – Contains thrash roots, till mid-song, when there is a shift to a Vahalla, operatic Wagner-influenced move.
8. Collision Course – Here is your song to work into your road mix – do folks do that anymore? I know I do. The miles melt away as this song is blasted through your speakers at paper busting volume. The double kick work is to be treasured. And the line to take home lyrically: “Death will take us all in the end.” But I don’t recommend smashing into anything with your vehicle as this line is sung.
9. Orders of Magnitude – A solid track, but nothing stands out on this track on first listen.
10. Think Tank Trials – The most old school track on the album. A loose feel, whereas the previous track was much tighter and polished in contrast.
11. Blank Look About Face – The title, chanting, and the music in this one evoke a militaristic marching mood. Blindly off to war with a boom end – but subtly so, as if ND is stating that if we don’t pay attention we won’t even notice when we are obliterated by the enemy – or ourselves.
12. Leper Colony – Layers of complexity interlaced throughout.
13. Nom de Guerre – the shortest track.
14. Analysis Paralysis – A basic, thrash song.
15. Opposites Repellent – Another short song, but nothing stood out here either. Neither this one, nor Orders of Magnitude make me want to skip the track, though.
16. A Gag Reflex – A grungy sound of modern thrash with a blending of a drop D dirty, chug, chug, chug grindcore. However, parts of the song evoke 00’s era nu-metal.
17. Everything in Mono (bonus track) – Fat, swirling, pounding of double kick and bass plucked.
Final thoughts: This is one of their best to date, in my opinion. However, I can understand why some of the purists of thrash school may not want to have this one in heavy rotation. I will have this on heavy rotation and I don’t say that about too many albums.
Listening notes: First impression notes taken while critically headbanging in the Chevy HHR with factory standard speakers.