Napalm Death "Analysis Paralysis" (Century Media)

There's something evocative, something tender, something *about* trees, in this case the stark monochrome woodland painted on the sleeve of this 7" single by Danish artist Frode Sylthe. Yet the only other sleeve art we can find which echoes this theme are the rich forest adorning Ripcord's "Poetic Justice" LP, and Shirley Souter's tree and stump drawings on Razorcuts' "The World Keeps Turning" set ("The World Keeps Turning" remains, fact fans, the only song title shared by Razorcuts and Napalm Death, unless you count that early Razors' pre-Sad Kaleidoscope demo, "Cock-Rock Alienation"). This is an artistic oversight by, um, all other bands, surely ?

And there's something evocative, something tender, something *about* holding new Napalm Death vinyl in your hand. Gosh, the last time we bought an ND 7" was back in 1989, when a trip to the same singles rack in NW1 which had yielded any number of Sarah 45s (and would later yield "A Smile Took Over") delivered up their fairly legendary "Mentally Murdered" single, the one that took them to a new level (one we sometimes feel, great as they are, that they could never hope to replicate). And we can laugh about it now, but at the time we really thought that there was a chance of Napalm breaking the top 40 with it. That's the kind of magical happening you contemplate when you're young and overwhelmed by a wonderful record, and insulate yourself completely from the reality that this was one band who never had a prayer of appearing on Top of the Pops.

"Analysis Paralysis" grabs you immediately with raw, rough n' ready descending chords. Danny Herrera's drums roll in with verve after four bars, ushering in a firestarting guitar riff from Mitch Harris before Barney Greenway hurls himself into the first verse: "if you're looking for the guilty ones", he growls, "we only need to look in the mirror" and with a smile as wide as the Thames Estuary you *know* that Napalm are BACK. Again. The four of them then propel a blistering, sprinting attack of traditional-ish grindcore that never relents over the course of its 3 1/2 minutes. So - just to be clear - there's no sign of Barney's recently stated influences of My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division, nor alas Shane's alleged longtime fondness for the Darling Buds. Closer to reality, nor is there any in-vogue mathgrind noodling or any concession to clean-lines metal production: Russ Russell, at the helm once again, keeps the guitars neatly fuzzy and Barney's vocal nicely frothing.

And the song is about a subject dear to our hearts, which is how - especially in the internet age - too many of us refuse to engage with critical debate. We don't need to apply critical thinking or supply evidence for our point of view: we can just hide behind our beliefs, however ill-informed, and in all probability harness plenty of "support" for them via a few minutes' concerted googling. Whatever your prejudice, there'll be a way to bolster it, so everything becomes polarised, context is dismissed, nuance is dead in the water and plenty of the correct answers in life (those that begin... "well, it's a little bit more complicated than that...") are sidelined. As an earlier incarnation of Napalm had it, you're "Blind To The Truth". Barney is as angry about all this as you might expect, braying - and this is where the trees come in, if you wondered - "will we ever see the wood for the trees / hating the truth, denying the hope / it might make us better men". And when he sings about "screaming at the wall", the Minor Threat reference can be no coincidence: as a big old-school hardcore fan we're sure that Barney was once down with them, too.

So, what more can we say, after listen after listen after listen ? It's plane to see that this is an absolute beech of a record. And that's no oak.