Napalm Death - one of grindcore's elders - has once again unleashed a new leftist onslaught into the burgeoning pool of 2012 releases. Titled Utilitarian, it emphasizes everything they are about but with a few new twists. Some hit and some miss.
Grindcore has it's staples, and although Napalm Death has often been entwined with the metal scene, they're not afraid to revert to their more energetic if simplistic stages. That's how Utilitarian feels from the beginning, and compared to Time Waits For No Slave this album really brings the grind with more d-beats and more impulsive ferocity. "Errors In The Signals" is a great introduction to Utilitarian (after the "intro" track "Circumspect"). Other grinders like "Think Tank Trials" are "Opposites Repellent" are awesome as well. There's a healthy dose of their death metal style on here as well with tracks like "Fall On Their Swords" and the closer "A Gag Reflex." It's alright and grind-tinged enough to win over exclusive grindcore fans, but most of the time the tracks just manage to make themselves present before ending, like the teaser track "Leper Colony."
Barney has a new, slightly thinner look about him but don't let that fool you. His vocals on Utilitarian are as ferocious as ever. One oddity is that there are clean vocals (performed by the guitarist as opposed to Barney). They're strangely melodic and don't particularly sound fitting on "The Wolf I Feed." Honestly they kind of sound like something Fear Factory did on their big-name release Archetype back in the early 2000's. I can't really say I'm a fan. Other than the vocals, another thing to note is the spastic use of a saxophone on "Everyday Pox." I like it, and it fits the track a bit better than the cleans in it's chaos, but it kind of feels gimmicky.
The production seems fine if a bit thin. I'm not going to complain though since it all sounds pretty nice with how the songs are arranged and written. Utilitarian is a bit exhaustive though, and I just feel like the album could've been a bit more fun for it's rather long length of 46 minutes. I also find their combination of death/grind to be lacking in memorability. It feels half-baked on Utilitarian, with the entirety of the album being a blur. Although it is fun, when it's over sometimes I forget I even listened to it.
6.5 out of 10
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