Napalm Death – Utilitarian

Napalm Death

Century Media
Robin van Persie. The Klitschko brothers. Rahul Dravid. Valve. Eeyore. The one thing all these names have in common is reliability. In the case of all but Eeyore (for whom I can’t vouch ‘performance’), quality is another synonymous trait. These people, companies and indeed characters possess an unbelievable ability to produce striking results again and again and again. And again. And yes, again.

I could use other musical examples, but where’s the fun in that? Everybody knows AC/DC deliver good riffs, Ramones great three-chord melodies and The Wildhearts deliver cracking choruses again and again. I don’t need to go over them all the time. So to get to the point, on their fifteenth studio album ‘Utilitarian‘, have Napalm Death’s standards slipped? Not a chance. The Birmingham grindcore legends post-millennium renaissance continues on its constantly rising boom in stark comparison to the world economy’s bust, and, even in a genre where is in rude health at present, one of the scene’s forerunners is back to rightfully reclaim their throne.
‘Circumspect’, an instrumental intro’, ratchets up the tension nicely before exploding in the form of ‘Errors in the Signals’. The ‘Death rear up with their blaring racket in full force, Barney Greenway’s vocals still as vicious as ever. Its evident already at this point that their ability to get in your face with forcible intent is undiminished, and the remainder of ‘Utilitarian‘ goes about in pretty much the same manner. Even as nothing much is done to greatly reinvent the way, its quality that counts all the way with this release.
Napalm Death – Analysis Paralysis
The tools mastered by their many years remain as effective as ever. The slight tempo shift during ‘Protection Racket’ has been utilised many a time over the years, but is as reliable and effective as the aforementioned Ramones’ three-chord policy, and you’d be a fool to not be circle-pitting as it kicks in. Their years of experience shine through, with Mitch Harris stepping up to provide lead vocals on ‘The Wolf I Feed’, evoking the soul of Killing Joke with ominous vocals on songs such as ‘Fall on Their Swords’, and simply wanting to make you go absolutely nuts during tracks like ‘Quarantined’ and ‘Blank Look About Face’.
Unquestionably Napalm Death have delivered the goods again. Rarely do they fall on their own swords, and even in an era where grind has risen back up to prominence and is chock full of pretenders to the throne, Napalm Death still claim the seat, and particularly in a world full of injustices and moral, ethical and political quandries, could well still be there for years to come.
Peter Clegg

2011 England Riots: A musical analysis

What a tumultuous few days it has been for England. Following the death of Mark Duggan from a police-related shooting, what started as a peaceful protest from Duggan’s family and friends in Tottenham seeking answers and justice for him spiralled into wave after wave of riots. Shops were smashed, looted and torched. Proud historic businesses built up over many years were burnt down with minutes. Copycat riots spread out across cities across the country, with nothing to protest against; instead, scores of hoodlums sought to partake in the supposed thrill of this wanton destruction, destroying city centre shops in their own uprising, with no goal but to cause trouble. More despicable acts have been committed. People’s homes, livelihoods, and more, destroyed. People putting themselves in the way have been attacked and sometimes killed for no reason other than doing the decent thing. Shameful. Absolutely shameful.
As quickly as social networking whipped up the riots, so the vast numbers opposing them whipped up a clean-up operation instead. Londoners, Brummies, Mancunians, Bristolians and more became sick and tired of these hoodlums running through their towns, smashing windows, burning down buildings and looting goods. The riot clean-up operation got under way thanks to Twitter, and there was the additional ‘Anti Riot – Operation Cup of Tea’ going about on Facebook too.  Eventually, the government realised that increased police presence leads to reduced crime on the streets. It didn’t take a genius to work that one out, did it?! Although in typically British fashion, it helps that it’s rained a good deal recently.
Thankfully this crackdown has seen the riots quelled, with many arrests made, and many wayward youths and formerly respectable pillars of society shamed in the courts. That said, the enquiry and the recovery will go on for much longer, you feel. The gap between the have and the have-nots in the UK is wider than ever before and still widening and is in dire need of address.
My aim of this blog wasn’t to take a political stance, or to tie anything into current affairs. It was purely musical. And it still is.

Where I live, it’s a bit sleepy. There was no chance of any riots going off as there’s nothing to nick, although there was a failed attempt at looting a supermarket a little further away. But those few days really got debate going, really got people on the outside talking, and I for one certainly couldn’t take my eyes and ears off the newsreel. And assisted by my MP3 player, I felt inspired to choose a small selection of songs that I feel befit the mood over those few nights. As I listened to them, I felt like they made a connection in terms of summing up these riots and by providing an alternative musical backdrop to those last few days. Not the usual political punk fare and not anything ‘street’. So here goes. Just the three songs. I would have stretched to five, but on further consideration, I’m not sure my other choices fit.

Bolt Thrower – Entrenched
[from Those Once Loyal, Metal Blade, 2005]
The streets of London on Monday night were a battlefield. Tensions were at a real high, and the police were struggling to contain a situation that was wildly out of hand. Bolt Thrower largely dealt with themes of war, and ‘Entrenched’ is no different. But musically it would have been more than befitting of the situation. The intro is the first flaming missiles thrown. As the riots gathered pace and the police struggled through a lack of armoury and indeed numbers to quell the situation, the galloping riff and searing lead in this song evokes the images of a warzone such as what was seen on televisions and monitors around the world, as numerous boroughs of London were brought to their knees by a vast act of criminality, a protest gone wrong.

Napalm Death – Riot of Violence[from Leaders Not Followers: Part 2, Century Media, 2004]
‘Riot of Violence’ was of course originally recorded by German thrash overlords Kreator, but Napalm Death’s version sounds gritter, angrier and spits with intensity. The riots spread to Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and in smaller pockets in other cities and towns and you could cite the song’s turns of pace from verse to pre-chorus riff to the speedier flashpoint that is the ‘riot of violence!’ chorus as accompaniments to the spreading of the violence.
It’s worth noting the song features a lot of lyrics about killing. These riots of course weren’t all about that, but as previously stated a number of people were tragically and needlessly killed simply for standing up for decency. Tuesday 9th August, 2011, was a truly despicable day and just the song title alone says it all about these riots. It wasn’t a protest about getting justice for a fallen family member, or an explanation from police. It had nothing to do with it at all. That was a fallacy, an excuse to go out and cause destruction on the streets. Families and businesses are today counting the cost.
Sick of it All – Hello Pricks
[from Yours Truly, Fat Wreck Chords, 2000]
‘Hello Pricks’ is an anthem about not being a dickhead in the moshpit. Its lyrics could easily apply to the hordes of scum who hijacked a protest and turned it into the worst riots seen since in England since 1981. ‘Don’t be a prick in the roses (true of Manchester, the Red Rose county). The black sheep can well refer to the numerous who feels alienated, ignored, unheard by the government, and the rioters are in that boat as well – just the majority of us don’t go round destroying people’s property or, on occasion, their lives. And the line ‘Stand up for things that’ll keep this action going strong’ should resonate as well, not least in standing up for the decent things about protesting. The community spirit really hasn’t been there for sometime. Who knows, Cameron might get his wish for a Big Society after all, as some in the media have been predicting. I reckon a few people would to well take lessons from this tale of the moshpit.
Make no mistake, I’m not attempting to make these riots entertainment value whatsoever, as I’m sure some opportune filmmaker looking to make a quick buck surely will. There’s many, many lessons to be learnt from the last few days. I’m not the person to make the suggestions as how to improve this country. But a lot of people need to take a good, long, hard look at themselves. Particularly the looters, the criminals, the violent. All of you are a disgrace to Blighty.
Peter Clegg
Bolt Thrower – Entrenched
Napalm Death – Riot of Violence
Sick of it All – Hello Pricks

Review: SSS – Problems To The Answer

Problems To The Answer

SSS were originally part of the spate of thrash bands that Earache Records signed as thrash metal once again gained a head of steam and briefly rose back to the fore. Some called it ‘The New Wave of Thrash Metal’, some called it ‘Thrash 2.0’, and detractors simply called it re-thrash. Meh. I could care less for snidey labelling. Or indeed labelling at all. But while Evile and former labelmates Municipal Waste have gone strength to strength and emerged dangerously close to mainstream waters, SSS have remained slightly under the radar and haven’t quite taken off in the same way – a shame, as they deserve at least as much recognition. That said, they’ve stuck to their uncompromising crossover thrash and continue to do so again on album number three.
It starts off pretty well, opener ‘The Kill Floor’ bringing in Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway on guest vocals to provide a great riotous 2-minute plus romp. The tracks then come thick and fast, and SSS sound just as pissed off and nonplussed as ever, with some insane musicianship on all instruments (‘Sick Pleasures’ and the instrumental ‘Future Primitive’) and combative songs such as the 5-second ‘Direct Action’, and ‘Here Comes The Neighbourhood’, in which Barney appears with his trademark roar once again.
Its not all same old, same old; SSS do try a couple of new things with some whispered vocals from Foxy in ‘Man Against Man’, and closer ‘Strangenotes’ is the band’s longest song to date, another instrumental that sounds hardly like crossover thrash but even shows hints of progression, as it recesses into a quieter, but unsettling, piano-driven middle section before returning to the main riff towards the end. It could well be the soundtrack to wandering lone through the creepy streets of a dispirit inner city suburb somewhere in rundown Britain – that middle section alone gives off that vibe.
Problems to the Answer’ deserves repeated listening. Particularly as long time SSS fans might be taken aback slightly by the forays into instrumentals, and there’s a few more punkish riffs as opposed to shredding thrash. The songs aren’t all as fast and furious as they were on ‘The Dividing Line’. That said, ‘Problems…’ is definitely a grower and in actual fact, SSS have managed to carve out a cracking album with a few experimental forays that don’t compromise their style, free of gimmickry. Hopefully, this will be the album that might inspire more thrash fans around the world to pay SSS a little more attention.
Peter Clegg