This record is when Napalm Death
fully made the jump into death metal. Hints of it were present on the Mentally Murdered
EP, but the songs on this record present a more much death metal-based approach to composition than their earlier records, and the production follows suit. This record admittedly does suffer from some flaws that keep it out of the upper echelon of death metal, but this record has enough going for it to be a pretty worthy listen overall.
The band's roots are still pretty heavily in punk and thrash metal; the majority of the riffs on this record still have quite a bit of crust and mid/late 80's extreme thrash influence to how they're written, but the difference is the way they're presented. The song structures overall are closer to death metal; the songs overall have a much more logical sense of connection between riffs than previously. (though admittedly without the frantic, explosive chaos of earlier releases) The performances overall are a lot tighter, if still pretty inspired.
The songs overall are some of the strongest in Napalm Death
's entire career, rife with extremely strong riffs and a genuinely dark, visceral feel to them. "Vision Conquest
" gets things off to a fast and tense start, with tearing tremolo riffs and frantic drum battery punctuating the track, while "If The Truth Be Known
" slowly builds up from an almost Celtic Frost
-esque intro riff. "Malicious Intent" has some impeccable riffs and a well done break (probably the song on here that most closely resembles Jesse Pintado's work with Terrorizer
, incidently). "Suffer
" is by far the most overtly memorable song with here, with hook-laden thrashy riffs and a gradual build up into frantic, grinding chaos before releasing into a mid-paced, almost battered-sounding outro. Even some of the weaker tracks, like "Unfit Earth
" and "The Chains that Bind Us" are fairly strong in their own right. Overall the songs, despite being more carefully written and structured than previous Napalm
tracks still showcase a genuine sense of anger, it's just more controlled here as opposed to the utterly blinding assault that From Enslavement to Obliteration
brought to the table.
The downsides to the record mainaly come in the vocals and the production job. Barney
Greenway's vocals feel weirdly stiff throughout the record, like he wasn't fully comfortable with the material present on here. I feel that he gets a LOT better on later Napalm Death
releases (Utopia Banished
and Fear Emptiness Despair
come to mind immediately). The overall sound is warm and dirty, yet also really muffled sounding. The drum sound in particular isn't very good; the snare drum sounds fairly cheap and the kicks overall lack punch. It's not really a game ender whatsoever, but it is a little weak.
But overall, this is pretty damn strong overall. It's not as raw or as chaotic as previous ND works, for better or worse, and it's probably the closest the band ever got to 'pure' death metal. Whether that's a good thing or not is up to you, but I feel the band pulls it off pretty well here. Definitely worth adding to one's collection.