Napalm Death
The Code is Red...Long Live the Code

“Napalm Death is pissed off, Long live Napalm Death!”.
I must admit, I’ve never really been a huge Napalm Death fan other than Harmony Corruption. I only own their early catalogue to earn scene points and frankly after Fear, Emptiness, Despair, Diatribes and Inside the Torn Apart efforts, I gave up on them all together. But recently a primal urge lured me back to a couple of their last few albums (Words From the Exit Wound, Enemy of the Music Business, Order of the Leech) that made me think they were ‘back’. With a change to Century Media, I questioned whether these influential Brits could continue their return to form, but my doubts were soon quelled as The Code… is easily Napalms Death’s best album in 13 years.

From the gloriously punishing old school power chords of opener “The Silence is Deafening”, you can immediately feel that this album is far better than anything they’ve done since Harmony Corruption and Utopia Banished. Now a four piece, the band is more stripped down, primal and angry delivering the purely punk inspired form of scathing grindcore that they themselves (arguably) invented. Other than the experimental closer “Morale”, gone are the mid paced death metal chugs of their middle era stylings as now the Birmingham bruisers are tighter and faster than ever. Even the normally flatline and predictable Barney Greenway (now with short hair) has a more venomous delivery at times sounding like Gorefest’s Jan-Chris De Koeijer than his usual monotone roar. The other long time performers Mitch Harris, Shame Embury and Danny Herrera plug along with veteran confidence, but it’s the song writing that’s the star of the show.
After the aforementioned opener, the blistering (and classically short) “Right You Are” and the typically political blaster “Diplomatic Immunity” (Bush is the ‘Cowboy Killer’) the title track (referring to the color coded threat levels) initially pulses with a thick menace before flicking the V’s (giving the bird for you yanks) at all challengers with a deft blast beat and power chord strut that simply rawks. As much as I’d like to dissect each track for you, words don’t do the sheer level of tenacity that seeps from every pore of this album justice (again, with the exception of “Morale” and instrumental closer “Our Pain is Their Power”. The Russ Russell production is lively but not overpowering, allowing the music itself to be the feature, not the production.

A few guests appear, but without reading the credits you’d hardly notice Jamey Jasta’s appearance on “Sold Short” or Jeff Walkers return from the dead on “Pledge Yourself to You”. Jello Biafra is far more involved in “The Great and the Good”, but none of the guests detract any of the songs from being punishing, abusive and rippling with tangible social discontent. Napalm Death’s musical hackles are up for the entire album, as their anti war/Bush sentiments gloss much of their spitefully heavy riffs and blistering blast beats. “Instruments of Persuasion”, “Marching Purposefully Backwards”, “Pay for the Privilege of Breathing” and “Vegetative State” are all expositions of grinding perfection that show the old dogs can still bite.

The only downside is the plodding experimentation of “Morale” (of which there is a rather tiresome video on the CD) and the closer “Our Pain is Their Power”, two rather lifeless closers to an otherwise eviscerating album. Even so, the preceding tracks simply make this album a must have for either disillusioned former Napalm Death fans looking for redemption, grindcore fans looking for the real deal or just lovers of pure sonic extremity looking for a perfectly executed primal rush.
Get this album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
April 27th, 2005

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