A quarter of a century after 1987's Scum introduced the world to arguably one of the metal scene's most uncompromising and downright menacing bands, and Birmingham four-piece Napalm Death are still as angry and vitriolic as ever. The "Godfathers of Grindcore" may have recently made a surprising cameo appearance in hit "yoof" drama Skins, but their 15th studio album, Utilitarian, would possibly reduce most of its teen viewers to a quivering wreck. Produced by Russ Russell (the Wildhearts, the Exploited), the follow-up to 2009's Time Waits for No Slave is a typically abrasive affair, chock-full of demonic, throat-ripping screams, moshpit-inducing staccato riffs, and breakneck-speed rhythms, whether it's the aggressive call-and-response of "Orders of Magnitude," the post-apocalyptic rage of "Errors in the Signals," or the adrenaline-fueled death metal of "Protection Racket," which is just as riotous as its name suggests. However, while there's little to back up frontman Mark Greenway's claims that Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine were major influences on the record, there are the occasional avant-garde flourishes which provide a welcome but brief respite from the relentless assault on the senses. Opener "Circumspect" is a doom-laden ambient instrumental which briefly hints at a more industrial and sludgier direction: "Everyday Pox" features a chaotic sax solo from John Zorn which renders his instrument of choice virtually unrecognizable, while a burst of Gregorian chants unexpectedly interrupts the otherwise hostile "Fall on Their Swords." Brutal, unrestrained, and unapologetically ferocious, Utilitarian proves Napalm Death certainly aren't going to mellow with age, and fans of their merciless sound wouldn't want them any other way.
by Jon O'Brien