Ladies and gentlemen: Napalm Death have entered the building. This is their new album, Utilitarian. It kicks ass, just like their other albums. Go download it, stream it or steal the money from your grandmother to get your hands on a copy. End of review.
So what more is there to be said? Why are you still reading? Okay maybe because this is an album review site and you came here for more than one paragraph, but it amply sums up yet another behemoth addition to the grind legends’ extensive catalog. Trying to review one of their albums is akin to writing a new spin on Reign in Blood, as these Brits are so consistently good one runs out of superlatives to describe them.
After a doom-tinged instrumental intro track that features some digitized audio for effect, Barney’s trademark vocals kick in on “Errors in the Signals”, and boy does dude sound pissed. I am still amazed at how he can sound MORE pissed off album after album. Does age or time ever catch up with this guy? He sounds as pissed off as Rick Santorum if you tried to convert him to Hinduism. He spits that audible venom from start to finish, and demonstrates once again what has always allowed me to pick out a Napalm Death song above all other grind bands. You could seriously put my whole grind collection on shuffle and ask me to name that tune, and I would know instantly when a Napalm Death song came on.
Of course Barney doesn’t do it all alone, as the usual cast is present to once again grind your eardrums into dust. Mitch Harris cranks out the nasty guitar tone. Shane Embury summons the four strings of the apocalypse, something it seems likes he’s been doing since Kennedy was in office, and Danny Herrera skanks and blasts his way squarely into your bottomless metal soul. Saxophonist John Zorn makes an appearance on “Everyday Pox”, and yes he is playing the saxophone in said track. At first listen it sounded like a high squeal guitar tone, but after re-listening and paying close attention I was able to identify the difference. Zorn is no stranger to the metal scene and might sound familiar to readers as he has collaborated in the past with Napalm Death, namely former member Mick Harris.
Besides having an extremely catchy chorus, “The Wolf I Feed” features guitarist Mitch Harris handling lead vocals and Greenway backing him up. I can’t say I enjoy Harris’ vocal style, but it’s by no means a deal breaker. You also get the Burton C. Bell-ish ambient clean vocals on “Wolf” that further add to the variety and show the band determined not to let their sound go stale. “Quarantined” and “Blank Look About Face” both feature choruses you might find yourself shouting randomly (while drawing odd looks from others), and it’s worth noting that taking some time with the lyrics booklet is quite rewarding as Greenway intelligently touches on everything from politics and society’s ills to morality and one’s personal struggles.
The CD I picked up here in the USA finishes with the bonus track “Everything in Mono”, and closes another chapter in the book of a band that continues to get better and refine their aural attack with each offering. There are also bonus tracks “Aim Without an Aim” and “Standardization”, the latter of which only appears on the vinyl edition and the former I am not sure where it appears but found it mentioned in a few different places. Whichever version you choose, Utilitarian is a raging bull that fittingly arrives 25 years after the band’s ground-breaking debut Scum. If you’re still unsure what to do, refer once again to the first paragraph.
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