Napalm Death

Review: Napalm Death – Apex Predator – Easy Meat

Location: Meriden, England, UK
Genre: Grindcore
Released: January 26, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

What else can be said about a band that has been kicking ass and taking names since the early 80’s? They already have one of my favorite band names in recorded history. A number of tracks from them are in constant rotation. My personal favorite is probably “The Public Gets (What The Public Doesn’t Want)” from Enemy of the Music Business, an album that sums up much of this band’s career. Nowadays, the band is just as pissed off at the global state of affairs as ever, as evidenced by this lovely interview from Vice with lead singer Barney Greenway:

Noisey: So first off, I was told that I need to ask you about your Justin Bieber T-shirt.
Barney Greenway: 
Yes, I do have one, I wore it in Russia because I thought it looked quite effeminate, and I wanted to look quite effeminate because they just passed that stupid law to ban promotion of non-traditional sexual practices. It’s quite silly, and I wanted to let them know how stupid their law was.

In many ways, Napalm Death is to the left as Ted Nugent is to the right. Take that as you will; the odds are likely that you won’t be able to understand the lyrics anyway. Vocally, Greenway is as loud and in-your-face as ever.

The best way to describe this album is by revisiting their previous release, Utilitarian, as it follows a similar format.However, I would describe this release as slightly more aggressive than its predecessor. It starts in a very similar way; the title track, which serves as the opener, sounds like a song you would during a trip to an upscale haunted house, making it the album’s standout track. Following this slasher score song comes a number of rapid-fire tracks, only one of which is longer than 3:03 until the closer.

Highlights include the catchy “How The Years Condemn” and “Timeless Flogging,” as well as the aggressive “Cesspits and “Stunt Your Growth.” They also explore more with clean vocals in a similar way to Utilitarian; this can be seen on “Hierarchies.”

I don’t see this album as being the one that will change skeptics’ thoughts about Napalm Death. Like them or not, they are the face of grindcore and will probably remain that way long after they retire. If their recent releases appealed to you, odds are this one will, as well.

One aspect that works as a double-edged sword is the album’s generally continuous flow, especially in the beginning. While it does enhance the listening experience, it’s harder to pinpoint specific tracks that stand out to the listener. Still, this is a solid release from the band that just keeps on grinding.

Overall: Come on, this is fucking Napalm Death we’re talking about here. Bang your heads, you ingrates!

Rating: 3.5*

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Review: Hazardeur – Rational Gaze

Location: Winterthur, Switzerland
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Released: May 1st, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

When I think of progressive death metal, there’s two sets of groups that come to mind: French titans Gojira and Gorguts, which don’t use many symphonic elements; and early Opeth and Ne Obliviscaris, which feature all kinds of orchestration. Hazardeur joins the Frenchmen in the non-orchestral category. If that interests you (as it should), stop reading and just listen to this.

The debut effort (!) from Hazardeur is absolutely loaded with fantasic riffs and top-notch drumming that doesn’t overshadow the rest of the album’s sound. The production mix is crisp. I can’t think of any major flaws, other than the fact that some songs tend to meander a little bit, becoming a little too long as a result of their own creative process.

If it’s possible to pick the best songs on here, I’d start with “Voices Of The Devious,” with varying tempos ranging from slow to blistering. There’s a riff during the faster sections which surfaces a couple times that is utterly stellar. “Destined To Deceive” is a crushing number once you get past the short intro. “The Sixth Great Wave” is another nice track that has some swift riffs and blast beats.

Out of the other songs, the only ones that didn’t fully garner my attention were “Manipulating The Unconscious,” the album’s longest track which boasts a more traditional structure. “God Of Our Times,” despite being shorter, has a similar flaw. I consider these to be minor nitpicks in the grand scheme of things.

As an added bonus, the lyrics are easily understandable. Many songs deal with global political issues while not necessarily being partisan to one side or the other (read: Megadeth to the right, Ministry to the left); plugging in Napalm Death lyrics in place of Hazardeur’s would yield a similar result.

This is one of the rare albums in which I consider it very likely that others will pick a song that I wouldn’t have ranked in my top three as one of their favorites, and I’d say “You know what? That makes a lot of sense.” This should appeal to a wide spectrum of metal fans, and as of now I consider this to be among the best albums of the year with potential to ascend even higher.

Overall: I would expect to see Hazardeur drawing a big crowd at European metal festivals within the next two years.

Rating: 4.0*

Review: No Return – Contamination Rises

Location: Paris, France
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal
Released: December 1991
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Diving For Treasure

By: Kris Kotlarik

“Diving for Treasure” is the feature at Over The Seize where I go back and find an album from a band that I have never heard of in the hopes of discovering a hidden gem. I didn’t have to dive very far for this attempt; No Return joins Alcest in the ranks of French metal that I have reviewed to this point.

No Return has released eight albums since their formation in 1989, most recently with their 2012 work, Inner MadnessContamination Rises is their second album; I also acquired Manipulated Mind, their penultimate release from 2008, but chose to go back to the early 90’s for this review.

Contamination Rises sounds like you would expect a 1990’s thrash metal album to sound; the production is quite raw, there is the obligatory short intro (this one has discordant pianos, ghost noises and backward vocals!), and the lyrical themes are fairly typical thrash fare (politics, societal challenges, war, etc.).

What stands out most to me is the frequent use of hi-hat blast beats, and I can’t tell if that’s by design or if the snare drum is just buried in the mix; “Memories” kicks off the album with these blast beats and I can pick up bits and pieces of snare drum, but regardless of the intent, these blast beats stand out in a good way.

The vocals on Contamination Rises sound a lot like Barney Greenway (Napalm Death). The guitars are quite crisp, but there’s not much to find in terms of guitar solos; most of them are brief leads with “Perversion” and “Mass Grave” taking the cake. Bass is nearly unintelligible.

Another quirk that made me take notice right away was the clear resemblence of the intro from “Trash World” to White Zombie’s “Thunder Kiss ’65,” both recorded in 1991.

For me, the standout songs here are “Sacred Bones,” highlighted by a rather ghostly guitar solo; “World of Impurities,” with a creative bridge section; and “Mass Grave,” the fastest track, chock-full of energy. There are bits and pieces of songs that also stand out; the dual guitar lead intro for “Uncontrolled Situation” is a nice touch, and “Sorrow” is an acoustic interlude in a similar vein to Krisiun’s “Black Wind” off of Southern Storm that sets up “Mass Grave” appropriately.

What will ultimately prevent me from giving this a higher rating is a lack of complete songs, with the possible exception of “Mass Grave.” Parts of it were bland, and in several songs (especially album closer “Revolt of the Hanged,”) I couldn’t think of anything to include for reactionary notes. It’s not bad by any means; it’s just not as captivating as it could be.

Overall: Low replay value. I do love those hi-hat blasts, though. 

Rating: 2.5*

A Guide to Analyzing (or writing) Over The Seize’s Album Reviews

By: Kris Kotlarik

Writing album reviews is something I have always taken great pleasure in. Trying to talk about most albums is much more difficult to express in an articulate way than it is for me to write it out, although there are a few that I will talk your head off about.

Starting tomorrow (May 30), I will begin writing album reviews under the Over The Seize flag. Each week, I will aim to write at least four reviews:
-1 recently released album from a band based in the state of Ohio. This is part of the “Local Waters” feature.
-1 recently released album from any band, anywhere. This is part of either the “National Uprising” or “Global Conquest” feature.
-1 album that I had no knowledge about before acquiring, released at any time, from any location. This will always be a “first listen” review and can be part of any of the aforementioned features.
-1 album from any period of time that I have listened to a multitude of times and either love it or fell out of favor with it.

The way I rate the albums I review revolves around top-to-bottom listenability. A highly rated album is almost guaranteed to never contain lulls or filler tracks. If there are “filler” tracks, they serve a purpose. This criteria often covers musicianship, lyrical content and production, in that order. Other factors I consider include perceived originality and, if applicable, replay value.

This is done using a 5-point scale. Some sample ratings:

5.0: An album that should be widely appreciated by fans of almost every genre. Entertaining from beginning to end on every listen. Extremely innovative and/or diverse. There are only a handful of albums that I will ever give this rating to.
Example: Devin Townsend – Ocean Machine

4.5: A fantastic album with negligible “slip-ups” that prevent it from reaching the all-time greats. Will still easily fall into my top 50 albums of all time and is a mortal lock to be in my top three albums of any given year.
Examples: Anathema – Weather Systems; The Gathering – Mandylion; Arcturus – The Sham Mirrors

4.0: A good album that could have been even better if a few songs were taken out or made shorter/longer. Guaranteed to make the top 30 of any year-end list I may end up writing.
Examples: Testament – The Gathering; Vader – Revelations; Rotting Christ – Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy

3.5: Missing a few components that would have otherwise given it a 4.0 or 4.5. Still a solid listen from top to bottom, but won’t be revisited as often.
Examples: Stolen Babies – There Be Squabbles Ahead; Melechesh – Emissaries; Blind Guardian – Tales From The Twilight World

3.0: This rating has often been frequented by albums that have approximately three or four amazing songs (or approximately one-quarter of the album in length), but the rest of the album usually gets ignored.
Examples: Krisiun – The Great Execution; Napalm Death – Utilitarian; Strapping Young Lad – Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing

2.5: An album that I have no strong feelings for one way or the other. Any positive comment is often outweighed by a negative one. This is the kind of album that would probably be relegated to the NIT if there was an album tournament, or something to the effect of the Little Caesar’s Bowl in the College Football multiverse. Someone else would then say “That team got snubbed! They should have gotten in over this team!” And I wouldn’t argue with you about it at all.
Examples: Turisas – Turisas2013; Ministry – Relapse; Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth

2.0: There’s going to be a couple songs that will make me say “If the rest of the album was like this, I would’ve loved every second of it.” Otherwise, nothing special.
Examples: Alcest – Shelter; Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen; Nevermore – Enemies Of Reality

1.5: Bits and pieces of this album are good and will get some play in the right setting; the rest of the album is rather uninteresting.
Examples: The second disk of Casualties of Cool; Sabaton – Heroes; Meshuggah – Koloss

1.0: Bits and pieces of this album are decent and I guess I would tolerate it if I was in the car or something; the rest of the album is nearly unlistenable.
Examples: Steel Panther – Feel the Steel; Jorn – Lonely are the Brave; Anvil – This is Thirteen

0.5: Very few redeeming qualities. Will never play again and hopefully won’t have to talk about it again.
Examples: Sonata Arctica – Stones Grow Her Name; Adrenaline Mob – Men of Honor; HIM – Razorblade Romance

0: Truly awful. Will roast this album/band to shreds:
Examples: Emmure, Five Finger Death Punch, Miss May I, Staind, etc.

And then there’s the albums I won’t even review because it’s not anything I would ever enjoy listening to in any setting and would therefore give it, at the very best, a 0.5 if I were to actually review it.
Examples: Pitbull, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lil Jon, etc.

Bear in mind that some of these bands whose albums I rated lowly are some of my favorite bands. Please don’t pick a fight with me over why I gave something such a low rating on this post. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously; just as a baseline for my own tastes.

Now, for those who wish to review albums with Over The Seize, I don’t care what your criteria is for your reviews, but I do expect it to be similarly selective. You should only have a handful of albums that you truly consider masterpieces, and only a handful of bands/albums that you consider to be truly awful. I also ask that you send an “about me and my review ratings” so that I can post it as one of the pages here. Thanks for reading. I will take some requests on occasion so feel free to pitch some review ideas.

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