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Napalm Death - Words From the Exit Wound
Review: One of the perpetual problems in making extreme music in a non-virtuostic manner is avoiding the catatonia of repeating similar ideas. During a lifetime as a band of changing members, Napalm Death have moved from blurring loose and muddy grind to a rigid death metal influenced hybrid which claimed a huge audience, and from there to almost tuneful and logically-defined songs on "Fear, Emptiness, Despair." At the current time, the band have turned their grind toward pop and progressive both with a neo-prog album that is in a seeming inversion of the older ideals of this band, harmonious.
Guitars are tuned in emo-rock style and played with an adept transfer of technique from tight-wound speed strumming to muffled churning of power chords, but phrases now focus less on angular arms of near-chromatic modal strips racing to recombine a passage to successive concluding notes, and more on holding a pattern which captures in its breadth of tonal motion a sense of space, augmented by newly toneful chord voicings etching a parallel harmony to the passage of of narrative in phrase. Instrumentalism is a notch upgraded to the flexible and excited, allowing exploration and a more consistent approach to inventive maintenance of details of song continuity. The guttural vocals are still present but often hold back from a pace that dominates the forward edge of the beat, letting the roar fill a space created by the ringing of a series of tones in a pattern that denotes consistent change. While this album sacrifices the grinding mayhem of earlier works, it is immediately welcome because of the need to move toward new things or at least something as a challenge or experiment.
Here there is no actual commercial intent successfully executed, but the end result creates resonant pop not unlike many of the My Bloody Valentine- and Ride-styled guitar fuzztone bands, except with a forceful and unrelenting symbolic development that could only come from the underground. Drums are absurdly happy but alluringly pocketed in some sleight of kit complexity, and nail a framework for these somewhat ambitious songs. Although there is no musical revolution on this disc, it is a new space in which Napalm Death can move and remains a well-executed, evocative album.