Utilitarian (Vinyl) Import
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|2. Errors In The Signals|
|3. Everyday Pox|
|4. Protection Racket|
|5. The Wolf I Feed|
|7. Fall On Their Swords|
|8. Collision Course|
|9. Orders of Magnitude|
|10. Think Tank Trials|
|11. Blank Look About Face|
|12. Leper Colony|
|13. Aim Without An Aim**|
|14. Everything In Mono**|
|15. Nom De Guerre|
|16. Analysis Paralysis|
|17. Opposites Repellent|
|18. A Gag Reflex|
Vinyl LP pressing. 2012 album from the veteran Grindcore outfit. Fourteen albums in and Napalm Death still remain the leaders of the Grindcore/Death Metal world, once again showing the upstarts how it's done. Utilitarian runs the gamut from straight-ahead violence and force to pure, undiluted Napalm Death-induced chaos that overall provides a well-rounded bloodletting that's not for the weak and also confronts the listener with such surprising moments as the sax passages by none other than John Zorn on 'Everyday Pox' or choral-like clean sections in 'Fall On Their Swords' or 'Blank Look About Face'. True to the band's tradition of spitting gallons of verbal venom, Utilitarian is an in-your-face razor-edged platter of social, cultural and political commentary.
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But Century Media has done a great disservice to the band and their fans by screwing up the digital version. The album proper is sixteen tracks, ending with "A Gag Reflex." The CD version, meanwhile, adds a seventeenth track at the end entitled "Everything In Mono." The limited edition contains two extra songs ("Aim Without An Aim," plus the aforementioned track); both of these are rather oddly inserted mid-stream so that they become tracks 13 and 14, respectively. This means that "Nom De Guerre" becomes track 15, "Analysis Paralysis" becomes track 16, "Opposites Repellent" becomes track 17, and "A Gag Reflex" becomes track 18. I honestly don't know if this was intentional on the band's part or if it was just weirdness on the part of CM, but it has led to the digital version being labelled incorrectly due to some apparent laziness.
What CM has done (in their infinitely infinite wisdom) is to encode the album based on the limited edition. But since they're only selling you sixteen songs, you can probably see where this is going: the last four tracks are mislabeled, and what you end up with is an incomplete album. Sure, you're getting the limited edition's bonus tracks, but you're also missing the last two tracks from the album in the process... "Opposites Repellent" and "A Gag Reflex" are just outright missing. Not getting extra songs is one thing, but not getting a true part of the album is something else entirely (and not something that any true fan of the band-- or music in general-- should be willing to condone). I hate to say it, but buying the CD is the best choice here. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time I've seen CM drop the ball on digital downloads (on this service, as well as others)-- and it saddens me to say that it probably won't be the last.
TL;DR... the album is great (hence the rating), but the digital version has the last four tracks mislabeled, and two songs are missing entirely. You should just buy the CD instead.
Furthermore, Napalm Death are a band forever surrounded by hyperbole due to the especially nasty, violent and savage sound that they make, so getting a feel of how one album is different to another can be difficult since everyone will just say clichéd things about how your ears will bleed etc.
An honest and hyperbole-free summation would be that if you generally like very extreme music, you should give Napalm Death a fair try and if you generally like Napalm Death then you should give Utilitarian a fair try, there is a strong possibility that you will like it.
Produced by Russ Russel, (The Berzerker, The Rotted, Dimmu Borgir) Utilitarian sounds great, and the energy level from the band themselves is very high. This is yet another expertly crafted album from the band delivering more extreme music and highly political lyrics.
Historically, the band have covered a lot of different ground in their lengthy career, and in the first decade of their career became known for taking radical shifts in musical style, sometimes to crys of `sell out' and sometimes to great praise. In the past decade however, Napalm Death found a winning formula and stuck to it very rigidly, which both garnered praise for consistency and occasional criticism for treading water creatively.
With Utilitarian the band do retain a large quantity of that post millennial formula but they also seem to be overly aware that they haven't changed up their style significantly in a while and so counteract that by using riffs, rhythms and vocal patterns here and there that you wouldn't have heard on the last few albums.
In many ways, Utilitarian can feel like somewhat of a mixture of their albums Order Of The Leech (2002) and Diatribes (1996). Like Diatribes, there is more sonic experimentation and generally fewer blastbeats than on their recent albums and more time is given over to rumbly bass focused breakdowns, different vocal approaches and dissonant jangly guitar styles. However, a successful balance has been achieved between that experimentation and the recent formula and so the rest of the album is very much in the mold of Order Of The Leech in terms of riff style, song structuring, general attitude and the harsh sound from that record.
For example, `The Wolf I Feed' initially has the feel of classic 1980s Hardcore Punk, but later introduces an almost Burton C Bell style clean vocal section. Other examples of the similarity with Diatribe's variety include tracks like `Everyday Pox,' `Orders Of Magnitude' and the album highlight `Blank Look About Face', feature the aforementioned dissonant waves of noisy guitar and even the echoey clean vocals from their late 90s style mixed in to the proceedings.
In terms of stand out moments of the other variety, special mention should be made for the album closer `A Gag Reflex,' which is one of the catchiest and best songs that the band have written since their career highlight Enemy Of The Music Business album.
In summary; it is definitely nice that they are avoiding making the exact same album one more time, and if you lost interest due to too much repetition then you'll probably view Utilitarian as a step in the right direction. That being said, its not as if Napalm Death are changing their direction as vastly as they have been seen to in the past. The success of Utilitarian is that this album feels both fresh and enjoyably diverse, but it does so in a way that feels like a logical evolution. Overall, highly Recommended.
I've liked every album ND put out and still hold Scum at the top, sharing with the Peel Sessions. Utilitarian quite easily slipped into the second slot. This is an extraordinary album. The intensity in total is better than Scum, though the Peel Sessions have moments that have yet to be matched by anything else I've heard from anyone.
Utilitarian is well crafted modern grindcore and no other band today can do it better than Napalm Death. Yet, while bringing it back closer to their roots, they are still sophisticated enough to be willing to embellish with some of the vocals and even throw in a surprising and superb John Zorn-ish (see Painkiller) brass instrument scream which complements the track well.
I'm giving the five stars for being the cream of the crop of modern grindcore, but I wish they'd throw down the gauntlet and put out a pure grindcore album; I'm sure with what they've learned over the past 30 years they could put out a pure grindcore album that destroys everything in the past.
After listening to this album a whole lot more, I'd like to retract the last paragraph. This album is so fucking intense, I believe this is Napalm Death's best album they have ever put out. No need for ND to change direction. I don't know what I'm talking about half the time. I give this 11 out 10 stars. I'm really looking forward to Apex Predator.