Napalm Death - "Smear Campaign"
Smear Campaign is the twelfth album by legendary grindcore metal band Napalm Death.
Napalm Death were formed in 1981 in the UK.
They were initially inspired by the early wave of London punk, in particularly the "anarcho-punk" movement (a subgenre of punk that focused on anarchist political discourse).
Then they went on to become one of the innovators of what is now called; Grindcore.
Grindcore is basically a type of "death-metal" with a noisy dense sound utilizing down-tuned guitars, overdrive bass, double bass-drum blast beats, and vocals that consist of low growls and/or high shrieks.
The Grindcore legends like; Anal Cunt, (aka AxCx) and Napalm Death, accompanied their songs with elements of "artistic or deliberate randomness", introducing random fluctuations into their music to obscure the lyrical content or vocal tracks.
While none of the original members remain in Napalm Death, the lineup of vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway, bassist Shane Embury, guitarist Mitch Harris and drummer Danny Herrera has remained consistent for most of the band's career.
My favorite album by Napalm Death has this lineup.
It's called; Smear Campaign.
The lineup on this utterly brilliant 2006 album is;
Greenway – vocals
Embury – bass
Harris – guitar, backing vocals
and, Herrera – drums
"Smear" is my favorite of all their work because Russ Russell, the grindcore production virtuoso, produced it.
Russell handles the engineering, recording, mixing and even the final EQ mastering of this immaculate album.
In true Russell fashion there is no weak spot.
Just drop the needle, push play, track one, however you make your music player start, just start it and LEAVE IT THE FUCK ALONE!
You will be in "grindcore bliss" until the album is done and completely over.
Russell is a musician and writer as well, with decades of experience. He has worked in every kind of metal rock genre.
Russ is also adept at producing classical, blues, jazz, acoustic pop, country, hip-hop, trip-hop, drum & bass, reggae, psychedelic space music, folk, dance breakbeat, and glam-thrash-boogie to name a few.
In other words Russ is a music junkie, a music nerd, like yours truly, and a man after my own heart.
Russell has such clarity of artistic vision, and such deep artistic integrity that most of the bands he produces are unheard of beyond their host genre.
Dimmu Borgir, The Wildhearts, Evile, Lock Up, Defecation, Meathook Seed, The Berzerker, The Rotted, Space Ritual, Amorphis, New Model Army, Luna Riot, Heretic, Evil Scarecrow, The Peccadillos, and three dozen more that you also probably never heard of.
But this doesn't mean the producer or the artist sucks, since you never heard of them.
To the contrary, it just as likely means what they have executed is so precisely well done, that it's only for that target audience.
Its not watered down, its not trying to "go commercial", or any of that sell-out crap to gain mass approval, or more money and etc.
It means that not even the target audience was as important to the producer and the artist as achieving the artistic goals of the music itself.
Like I said, a man after my own heart.
Anyhoo, "Smear Campaign" is an uncompromising, intense, yet tasteful album. It is 45 minutes of pure hardcore metal with key changes, tempo shifts and varied moods. Just how I like it!
They sound as hungry, angry, committed, and inspired as ever.
There is the experimental and yet restrained opening track, "Weitschmerz", which features acoustic guitars and organ-like keyboards, and a melodic female vocal by Anneke van Giersbergen.
Conversely on: "In Deference," they are every bit as brutal and extreme as anything the grindcore gods have ever been. About 90 percent of this album is an uncompromising, crushing, take-no-prisoners onslaught.
Russ Russell has corralled the boys and their immense vitriolic, bludgeoning delivery into a very cohesive unified expression.
There is organization in the frighteningly fast tempos and a devastating intricacy.
Much like death-metal gods; Slayer, I could only wonder how many times they rehearsed these songs before Russ accepted a final take. They were nearly "subconsciously" tight on the entire album.
Danny Herrera unleashes lethal double bass-drum blasts, and Mitch Harris' guitar riffs are positively smoking hot, and his leads are just as ridiculous.
In fact, it all goes by so fast that the listener doesn't realize they just spent 45 minutes listening to it.
All you remember is being caught in a whirlwind of guitars, drums, and Barney's belligerent vocals and blood-curdling screams.
The scathing, "anti-everything" lyrics are simply added frosting for your casual reading afterwards. You really won't understand them as he sings them, but that has always been part of the mystique of hardcore and grindcore music.
It's about an attitude; "Just feel me, feel me inside." - GG Allin
"Don't worry about the semantics of whatever I said."
"You either feel me or you don't."
"This is punk-grindcore-hardcore metal, not a doctoral thesis at Oxford."
"You guys care more about what I said, than I do!" - Ozzy
That said, every grunt, bellow, growl, snarl, bark and shriek is perfectly stated and articulated.
The record's production style helps to contribute a clarity to the raw, primal urgency of the overall mood.
"Sink Fast, Let Go", "Fatalist", "Puritanical Punishment," are all highlights. There is an avalanche of great riffs throughout the entire album.
But not every track is maniacal and overwhelming.
There is restrained heaviness on "Freedom Is The Wage Of Sin" and this adds some strategic texture to the album.
"Short-Lived", "Identity Crisis", and "Eyes Right Out" all begin at the speed of light, but then a well-placed tempo change kicks in and takes the songs down into a mid-tempo heavy groove.
Lastly, "Warped Beyond Logic" moves in reverse, because it begins fairly slowly but then works its way up to a blinding speed with buzzsaw riffs and teeth-shaking double bass-drum blasts throughout.
In short, Napalm Death are as strong now as they were twenty-four years ago.
This album shows "the core four" members have no desire to age, tone it down, or mature. Just what the metal doctor ordered; "Keep going balls out until they send for the hearse!"
"Smear Campaign" could have used a few big anthemic hooks, or some individually memorable riffs, and this would have created a single standout track from the disc.
But Russ Russell doesn't work that way.
The albums he makes are conceived as a "singular art piece" and this is one of the best hardcore metal/grindcore examples of that methodology ever recorded in this genre.
Surely Napalm Death's finest effort in at least six years.
A mandatory purchase for all extreme/underground/hardcore metal fans.
Prepare to be devastated.
By James Clark with A. Stutheit
Trufact: Napalm Death have released fifteen studio albums and are listed by Nielsen SoundScan as the seventh best-selling hardcore metal band in United States history based on sales statistics.
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