By Thor

At their best, Napalm Death is a frenetic whirlwind of sociopolitical piss and vinegar and the very genesis of grind.  At their worst they’re a confounding, monotonous blur of experimentation. But no matter where they happen to reside in their own dynamic paradigm, they are arguably the most important band in the history of extreme music.

I bought “Scum” when I was a kid, transfixed by the absurd chaos of it all, (while my cousin, Sarah, laughed hysterically at Lee Dorian’s grunted uttering). Later, when I came of age as both a person and a musician, the early Barney Greenway-fronted albums such as “Harmony Corruption” and “Utopia Banished” were my own personal soundtrack. In the mid-90’s the band entered its “Diatribes” phase and lost me with their avant garde noise. But I knew it was true love when we were gleefully reunited in 2000 with “Enemy of the Music Business”. Since then we’ve had a good, if not great, relationship.

This brings us to Napalm Death’s latest offering, “Utilitarian”. Unlike their last album, “Time Waits for no Slave” which is brilliant from top to bottom and from front to back, “Utilitarian” occupies the same territory as 2005’s “The Code is Red, Long Live the Code” in that it’s not as lean and a lot less consistent than their best work, post “Diatribes”.

The album is a bit long winded and it feels bloated with excessive noise, ala the dreaded “Diatribes”, though not as a featured element.  There are moments, particularly on songs such as “Errors in the Signal”, “The Wolf I Feed”, “Quarantined”, “Collision Course”, “Leper Colony”, and “Opposites Repellent” that are devastatingly excellent.  Those songs also happen to be conventionally fast and muscle-bound grind tunes, unpolluted by the droning that bogs down much of “Utilitarian”.

And such is the peril of being a Napalm Death fan.  They’re envelop-pushers and they aren’t afraid to do whatever the fuck they’re hearts desire.  Sometimes I just can’t get down with how that manifests.  Other times it makes me proclaim their superiority over all other bands.  My assessment of “Utilitarian” needs to be contextualized against that essence of this band’s approach to creating music.  Like all reviews, this one is subjective; however, there are an awful lot of musical flavors in Napalm Death’s repertoire, so it’s imperative that fans of the band kick the tires on this one, themselves.