Napalm Death’s “Apex Predator - Easy Meat,” Review by Nic de Sena
Napalm Death may be one of the most seminal bands in aggressive music and I doubt many would argue the influence that the name alone carries. Whether they appeal to you or not isn’t the question, their impact has been widespread. Apex Predator – Easy Meat is the fifteenth addition to a career spanning well over three decades at this point. Take a moment and consider that, this is a grindcore band with now fifteen full length records and yet, they’ve remained the leaders of the pack. It’s remarkable for any band to have a career this long but even more so for the forefathers to remain relevant and progressive. This is exactly what Apex Predator – Easy Meat intends to showcase.
Let’s be perfectly honest, you most likely knew what you were getting into prior to reading a review for Napalm Death, but with age comes a refinement. In more recent records, Napalm Death have chosen to blend what you’d expect from the grind stalwarts, with more progressive and experimental takes on songwriting. The opening and title track “Apex Predator – Easy Meat” is a primitive, mechanical, and methodical track with vocal deliveries that have a distinct industrious feel to them, utilizing non-conventional procession work to drive that effect home. It is disorienting on first listen, leaving you unprepared for “Smash A Single Digit.” A blazing follow up, full of what you’d expect from Napalm Death: blast beats and anti-capitalist messages. Is that a criticism? Not at all, that’s what I go to Napalm Death for but do you get that with Apex Predator – Easy Meat? Not in the least. “How The Years Condemn” is a punishing dissonant mid-tempo track, a pace that I personally feel ND does best. While this album certainly has no lack of burners, “Dear Slum Landlord” could be taken as the most progressive of the lot and perhaps even for ND in general. It’s a slow, melodic track with vocals that do not quite hit the clean range but aren’t what you’d expect and they’re most certainly not out of place.
What binds this record is the willingness to expand and experiment with a sound that was already completely of their own design. While this record has no shortage of unorthodox songwriting, “Hierarchies” can be seen as stand out in those terms. Musically, “Hierarchies” is a fast paced trash riff, but what makes this track truly special is the leftfield injection of harmonized vocals.
The production is massive, nothing is buried or lost in the mix. The instrumentation is flawless and in no way does it fall flat due to overproduction and studio wizardry. This isn’t something that should be overlooked in the least bit. While ND has always pushed their own personal boundaries in terms of musicianship, this record has some of their finest work. First and most notably is Greenway’s vocal performance. At forty-five years of age, one would think that he’d be slowing down but this record is the antithesis of that in every regard. As he’s aged, his vocals have become more coarse, frantic and desperate. In terms of drumming, I think this might be some of Danny Herrera’s finest work with ND yet and that is most likely a reflection of the shit in songwriting. It’s catchy, clever and perfectly executed. Tracks such as “Cesspits” illustrate this combination of technicality without overplaying excellent. Of course, one would be remiss to not acknowledge the work of Shane Embry (bass) and Mitch Harris (guitar). The guitar work is crushing, dissonant and uncompromising in every possible way but what supports this is the juxtaposition of Embry in the slower, more methodical tracks where he carries the workload.
Apex Predator – Easy Meat is a welcome addition to a catalog that is already overflowing with untouchable content. It’s immensely difficult for any band to stay relevant, let alone groups from niche musical genres. Not only that but one of the most outspoken, politically motivated and lyrically volatile acts that aggressive music has ever seen. The fact is: They helped build grind and this is a much needed reminder.