Has it really been almost three years since Napalm Death‘s last offering? It feels like it was just yesterday when I was gorging myself with that record in the background, and yet the veterans of death metal and grindcore are now offering us a new dish to feast upon: Apex Predator – Easy Meat. Last year I heard a live preview of “Dear Slum Landlord…”, one of the songs of this new record, and I remember thinking that it was very much in the same vein of some of the slower, The Swans-influenced songs from Utilitarian. At the time I wasn’t really sure what to make of it since it wasn’t the final product, and I always prefer to hold all my reservations until I’m able to sink my carnivorous teeth into what the band would consider to be their masterpiece.
“Apex Predator – Easy Meat” comes in with a really intense mixture of industrial ambiance, coupled with Barney Greenway and Mitch Harris offering their grisly and pained caterwauling, which is a perfect entrance into what the record is choosing to be. As I go through the tracks the differences between this album and Utilitarian become abundantly clear. While in Utilitarian the diversity between the more groove-oriented moshpit songs and those that barrel forth with blistering speed and hate were at a 1:1 ratio for the most part, Apex Predator… easily favors the latter. While I enjoy Napalm Death‘s slower and more epic songs, I like their unrestrained, grinding insanity far more.
A special mention goes to “Stubborn Stains”, because that song is ridiculously intense and at times it even reminds me of their classic track “Devouring Depraved” from Words From The Exit Wound. There’s also the second half of “Adversarial / Copulating Snakes” (I’m going to assume that it’s the “Copulating Snakes” part) that even has a flavor of “Sida de la Mente” by Brujeria, but I’m sure that’s just purely coincidental, even if Shane Embury does play in both bands.
As much as I proclaim to love Napalm Death, I cannot say that APEM is a perfect record. The production is great and each song certainly has its place, but there are some little things that bother me enough to mention them. Despite the guitar tone being one that the band has used for years, I seems as if it does get swallowed and overpowered in the mix at certain points. I think this has more to do with the way extreme metal is produced these days rather than the tone itself becoming obsolete, but we’ll see how Mitch Harris handles that in the future. There is also the matter of some riffs feeling like they had been retooled from previous records (for example, “Hierarchies” sure has a striking resemblance to “Collision Course” from Utilitarian). I know that it isn’t a foreign phenomenon for bands to take old riffs and rework them in various ways, but I think there’s just a few too many coincidences for me to overlook.
Despite the shortcomings of Apex Predator – Easy Meat, there is far more to rave about what the band has done right rather than wrong. I know for certain that you and I will have plenty of violent moments in the mosh pits when Napalm Death eventually go on tour through North America and lay waste to whatever stage is fortunate enough to have them. It’s hard to imagine that a band whose median members’ age is 46 are able to rock as hard as they do, but they make it look incredibly easy, and I hope it just means that they will continue to do so for even longer.