Napalm Death’s latest experiment causes a mini-seism

Author John Hagen - 11.2.2022

Thirty four years have gone since the release of Napalm Death’s seminal album, Scum. While Bill Steer (Carcass) and Lee Dorian (ex-Cathedral) began recording such classics as “You Suffer”—the shortest song ever-recorded—in 1986, the band actually began several years earlier.

Evolving in the UK anarcho-punk scene, teenage duo Nic Bullen and Miles Ratledge began playing under a number of different denominations—alongside genre-defining bands such as Crass—before their successors settled with what is now a death and grind household name, Napalm Death.

The collective spent the last four decades performing and recording some of the most extreme music ever written, and commenced the twenty-twenties with the critically-acclaimed release of Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, their 16th album.

A forty-year career span that was anything but smooth sailing. From tumultuous business relationships to the 2006 passing of long-time guitarist Jesse Pintado, Napalm Death had its fair share of adversity to overcome. 

None of the founding members remain, though Napalm Death’s lineup has remained more or less consistent since the late 1980s. Despite all that, the band weathered the years, always staying true to their core political beliefs. Only did their sound evolve, first morphing into grindcore before blending their blare with a co-emergent genre we now call death metal.

With 2022 comes one of the band’s most experimental releases yet, named Resentment Is Always Seismic. Napalm Death’s latest release is a stripped-down album, or mini-album, recorded during the Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’s studio sessions.

“Narcissus,” the first track and single, starts with a harrowing bass massacre played by long-time member Shane Embury, who is humorously credited with “Bass reverberations, barks and moans, noise-testing everyday objects.”

Danny Herrera, the drummer, who is credited with “Turbulent beat throes,” quickly follows suit with a cacophony of brass thrashings. Right on Herrera’s heels is Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway, who, in turn, is credited with “Bawling, shrieking, intermittent baritone,” which describes his dynamic and varied performance quite accurately.

The tracks that follow are a roller-coaster of mutating sounds, with covers thrown in, such as hardcore legends Bad Brains’s “Don’t Need It” and SLAB!’s excellent “People Pie,” which features female backing vocals—also referred to as a “tertiary larynx”—by Catherine Sharples.

The final, eponymous track is a remix of a song from another of Shane Embury’s projects, Dark Sky Burial. The industrial-sounding and bass-heavy tune is an eerie closer to the power-packed release.

With their latest release, Napalm Death sought to explore the outer limits of extreme metal, and perhaps revisit some of their earliest influences. The performances and production are flawless, though some artistic choices may perplex some, but not yours truly.

Listening to this mini-album made me feel like the protagonist of Hitachi Maxwell’s old 1970s ads—completely blown away. Napalm Death managed to make a coherent and cohesive mini-work by blending genres as different as hardcore punk, death metal, and industrial music—and the result is nothing but seismic.

Whether you approach Resentment Is Always Seismic as an extension of Napalm Death’s previous album or as a standalone release, it will not leave you indifferent, so sit tight.