Napalm Death

The Code Is Red...Long Live the Code

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Had you dared to suggest back in the late '80s that Napalm Death -- not one of their supposedly more stable peers -- would be the ones to survive through thick and thin and become elder statesmen of extreme metal, you might have been laughed right out of the meat market. But here they are, still thriving decades on from grindcore's violent birth and 11 (that's 11!) studio albums into their career, despite continued challenges like the long-mooted, now seemingly official, departure of long-serving guitarist Jesse Pintado after a decade of work alongside mainstay Mitch Harris. Of course with this elder statesmen status comes the matter of (cough!) maturity, and that right there may be the single word that defines 2005's The Code Is Red...Long Live the Code, whether Napalm likes it or not. It also serves as the dividing line between those fans who have either stuck with or recently discovered the band, and those for whom Napalm Death may as well have died an excruciatingly painful, er, napalm death after releasing those two grindcore-defining first albums: Scum and From Enslavement to Obliteration. The latter are encouraged to take a hike right now, because even ultra-brief new punishments like "Right You Are" and "Pay for the Privilege of Breathing" only barely recall those early years, of which enduring bassist Shane Embury is the only remnant. Rather, though signature new material like "Silence Is Deafening," "Climate Controllers," and "Striding Purposefully Backwards" retains a concerted punk edge in its riffing and arrangements (a trend begun with 2000's revitalizing Enemy of the Music Business), Napalm's maturity (there's that word again), improved technical abilities, as well as a cleaner, more sophisticated production can't help but manifest themselves throughout this set. And yet, even as they prove that reinstating a certain punk ethos still won't get you back to Kansas again, these tracks carry an implicit challenge, daring even the most cynical of listeners to remain unmoved by the gigantic riffs unleashed by the title track or the colossal "All Hail the Grey Dawn" -- not to mention Barney Greenway's still inimitable throat of Armageddon. At this stage, all that's left to comment on are the guest appearances from Hatebreed's Jamie Jasta (pretty nondescript, somewhere in "Instruments of Persuasion"), old Carcass sparring mate Jeff Walker (more obvious in "Pledge Yourself to You"), and lending his unmistakable warble to "The Great and the Good," none other than Jello Biafra. In sum, while most certainly not likely to reconvert old-school grindcore purists, The Code Is Red...Long Live the Code shows Napalm Death in finer form than arguably any of their '90s efforts and lacking little in terms of the uncompromising fury and intelligence that helped make their name.

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