Napalm Death - _Smear Campaign_
(Century Media, 2006)
by: Jackie Smit (9 out of 10)
Given how many times it's been brought up as a topic of discussion in the past, it seems an almost redundant exercise to revisit Napalm Death's remarkable comeback that started with 2000's _Enemy of the Music Business_. Yet, in recalling the band's about turn from a group most had written off as has-beens to rejuvenated trailblazers in a scene that they had a big hand in creating, one can't help but to admire their consistency. With a further two albums under their belt now -- each as hard-hitting and poignant as their proverbial hello to the twenty-first century -- they ably demonstrated that their resurgence was not a mere flash in the pan. Evidently they aren't about to run out of creative steam anytime soon either, for less than eighteen months after their last effort, they're back with album number thirteen.

While eschewing the unspoken tradition of a two year gap between full-lengths may tang of a rush-job to some, there’s little evidence of that here. Clearly very comfortable in their current situation with Century Media and their relationship with producer Russ Russell, _Smear Campaign_ picks up where its predecessor left off, but also exhibits a more experimental and daring side to the band. Those having nightmare visions of the lacklustre _Diatribes_ needn't fear, however; the keyboard and acoustic guitar that start off opener "Weltschmerz" may be a first for the band, but when "Sink Fast Let Go" kicks the album off properly, you're almost compelled to start scanning the horizon for one of the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Exhibiting more of the band's grindcore roots than anything they've done in as long as fifteen years, this is Napalm in their element: they're still pissed off at organized religion, politicians, governments and every other one of the world's ills, and they're fully capable of voicing their discontent in the most explicit and violent musical terms they can muster. The dual salvo of "Puritanical Punishment Beating", and "Eyes Right Out" hit equally hard; Barney Greenway's voice hinting at pitbull blood in his ancestry more vividly than ever.

On the occasions when the band experiment, they do so with more than enough panache to make it work. Be it the haunting closing strains of the album's title track, replete with Greenway going at it Swans-style on the microphone, or even The Gathering's Anneke Van Giersbergen lending her voice to "In Deference", _Smear Campaign_ presents what could well be Napalm Death's strongest technical achievement to date. Even if that point is debatable, then what's exempt of any dispute here is that Napalm Death have yet again proven themselves to be one of the most reliably consistent entities in extreme music.


(article published 22/8/2006)

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