Friday, August 17, 2012

Napalm Death / Converge split 7" (self-released)

More stars on 45: a split vinyl EP, clothed in fabulous brown sepia cover art, from two of extreme music's most loyally supported clans. We're OK with Converge, you know: not their fault they're so popular, and it's right to have respect for Kurt Ballou after he produced Nails' more-than-tidy "Unsilent Death" set a couple of years back. Plus, to be fair to them, as well as a commendably terse newie ("No Light Escapes") they also rustle up an Entombed cover version, enlisting a slew of backing vocalists including Lock-Up's amiable Tomas Lindberg and representatives from All Pigs Must Die and Trap Them (a male version of the 'Rinettes, perhaps). But, jingoistically enough, we're here for the British side of this 7" single, on which a resurgent Napalm Death (although see here for our somewhat conflicted feelings on their continued pre-eminence) fire two more shots across the bows of our complacent nation.

First comes "Will By Mouth". The title may be a worrying indication that the band are descending into punnery, but the music betrays no sign of such frippery, the guitars simply raining down. Since slimming down to a quartet again Napalm have evolved (as one, natch) a new signature sound: and "Will By Mouth" epitomises the style they've now perfected. Firstly, from a standing start, it accelerates frighteningly: Napalm like to dive quickly into the verse, and for the verse to be uproarious. Secondly, although the riff isn't hidden, it's so quick as it traces the blastbeats that you'd forgive the casual listener (if grindcore ever has casual listeners) for not noticing the melody at all.

Snarling and fearsomely fast, then, "Will By Mouth" is a musical barrage which apes the 'feel' of the more hell-for-leather tracks on their last LP, "Utilitarian": after an ecstatic minute or so the punked-up grind momentarily subsides (à la "Opposites Repellent" and "Nom De Guerre"), but they then regroup for a further twenty seconds of crunching hardcore-style riffing (think some of their cover choices on "Leaders Not Followers 2", not least Agnostic Front's "Blind Justice") just to put the cherry on the cake and get your head, heart and feet pounding in unison. (Actually, the combination of "Will By Mouth"'s decibel-level, incessant speed and that devilishly joyous closing passage put us in mind a little of Scapegoat's truly outstanding self-titled LP on Painkiller Records last year).

The other Napalm track, "No Impediment To Triumph", is a slight surprise in that it isn't really a surprise. To explain, the pre-release hype threw about adjectives like 'experimental', 'textured' and 'atmospheric', which meant we were anticipating one of Napalm's slowed-down, keyboard-stabbed semi-industrial instrumentals, but in fact "No Impediment" is only really outré by comparison to "Will By Mouth": although double the length of their opener, it still zips along with righteous fury as Barney Greenway gives Union Carbide both barrels for the Bhopal atrocity. Yes, it's a departure of sorts from the signature sound we described above, in that there are some flashing, rolling drums from Danny Herrera, and Mitch Harris scoops liberal measures of detuned deathgrind-ish guitar into the mix, but even when dealing with such a sensitive subject the boys are obviously in no mood to drop the tempo. (Not even for a second: when "No Impediment" stops, it stops dead).

All in all then, the second Napalm Death single this year (after the not-unblistering "Analysis Paralysis" 7") is another definite treat. It doesn't matter, one feels, that this great British band may never better "The Missing Link", or "Unchallenged Hate", or "Mentally Murdered", or "From Enslavement To Obliteration". They are putting out records right now that eclipse the efforts of whippersnappers half their age. Not just that, but we find ourselves thinking there's no reason why they won't still be making ace records for decades to come. After all, George Frederic Handel was in his sixties when he came up with "Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba", and that's one of the greatest three-minute pop songs ever.

It almost defies belief that when the earliest Napalm line-up gingerly embarked on its first forays into bedroom punk / metal, Leonid Brezhnev was still in power, Mark E. Smith would have been angrily fashioning "Marquis Cha-Cha" and Paolo Rossi was writing a chapter of World Cup history. Yet the *essence* of Napalm Death remains that very same fusion of punk spirit and visceral fury; untainted by concession, unmellowed by age. Long may they reign.

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