January 29, 2007 | | 4.5

Napalm Death, Smear Campaign

Napalm Death’s recent releases have harkened back to a time in their history when their music was raw, angry, defiant and caustic. Their recent resurgence into the sludging grind that helped bring them back to the forefront of the genre they helped pioneer. Last year’s The Code is Red, Long Live the Code… gave us hints of that regression to a darker, more urgent sound.

Their latest effort “Smear Campaign” is a sign that they have revisited their roots. The music is violently raw and fast. The lyrics stand defiant in the face of moral and religious standards. While the band has brought back the grind and abandoned the metal that they experimented with in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, they are still pushing the envelope in terms of progression. This isn’t simply some throw back album. The boys sound like they are having a great time mixing their brand of grind with elements that keep them at the top of the underground music food chain.

The opening track is simply to get you in the mood. It’s a minute and a half worth of moody guitar work and incoherent sound clips.

Sink Fast, Let Go
After that brief intro, the band wastes no time spitting in the face of organized religion. Mitch Harris’ high pitch shrieks start this one off with Barney hitting the deeper chorus before taking the reigns for the lead vocals. This one has a great riff and catchy chorus.

“Fatalist” starts out with a beef riff and powerful drumming with Barney’s distinctive growl. It’s a bit slower than “Sink Fast…” but no less crushing. Drummer Dino Herrera erupts on the drums at the one minute mark. Be prepared to bust a blood vessel head banging. It ends quite violently and chaotic.

Puritanical Punishment Beating
This one could have been pulled off of any of their earlier albums. It’s classic Scum era Napalm Death. Surprisingly, it’s the longest track on the album at just less than three and a half minutes. Considering that Dino rarely lets up on the drums, that’s a hell of a pace to keep for that long. Barney seems intent on bringing down established, organized religion with his lyrics on this album.

When All Is Said and Done
The band slows it down a bit for this mid-tempo track. The riffs and guitar highlights are catchy and Barney’s cadence is infectious. I can see why they released this as their first single. It’s catchy and grimy all at the same time.

Freedom Is the Wage of Sin
Man, I really missed the combination of Harris’ backing vocals and Barney’s deep, guttural growls on their last album. It’s nice to see that they’ve brought Mitch back into the mix a bit more.

In Deference
Goddam! This track is devastating. It’s another of those tracks that could have been ripped from Scum or From Enslavement to Obliteration. Its coarse sound has an under produced feel to it. I’m not sure how I feel about the spoken female portion (provided by The Gathering’s Anneke van Giersbergen). It’s an interesting touch, but not sure it’s completely necessary.

I love the industrial sludge they’ve caked all over this one. It’s probably got the rawest energy of any other song on the album. The slow down towards the end of this one is a nice change of pace.

Identity Crisis
“Identity Crisis” is another slower track, with plenty of reverb to start it off. It’s got a crunchy beat from bassist Shane Embury and Dino. It ends with Barney and Harris screaming incoherent lyrics.

Shattered Existence
Here’s another classic Napalm Death track. Its pummeling beat only seems to push Barney’s vocals to another level.

Eyes Right Out
A thick bass line from Embury starts this one off. This one has a slightly lighter overall sound. It feels brighter when compared to the rest of the album which is dark and gloomy. It’s not a cheery song by any means. The chugging slowdown at the minute and a half mark is pretty slick.

Warped Beyond Logic
Harris’ opening riff is carried throughout the track at Dino pounds away at the drums. The mix up in speeds and tempos will keep you on your toes during this one.

Rabid Wolves For Christ
The shortest track on the album is also one of it’s rawest. It’s got a punk attitude that mixes well with the band’s style of grind.

Deaf and Dumbstruck (Intelligent Design)
I love the riff and pounding drums on this one. Listen to this one real loud at the office — you’re sure to not be bugged by anyone all day long.

Persona Non Grata
The band uses a bit of vocal effects on this one. It’s not over done, but still adds a new dimension to the album’s sound. It’s used primarily as background vocals, so it doesn’t really affect the song at all.

Smear Campaign
The title track is a plodding, sludgy mix of eeriness and gloom. The band uses a few more vocal tricks on Barney’s delivery, adding feeling of despair to the mix. This is the slowest track on the album and a great way to bring us all back to reality after what is almost a trip down memory lane for use fans of their much earlier material.

~ ~ ~

This is hands down, the best album Napalm Death has put out in a very long time. It reeks of raw, filthy grind with elements that keep it fresh and modern. Many of those fans that may have left when the band began experimenting with more melodic metal will surely come back after hearing a few tracks off this disc. I know I have.

Favorite Tracks:
How can you honestly not pick all of them as your favorite?

Additional Notes: