Napalm Death - Smear Campaign
Century Media
Grind/Death Metal
16 songs (45'09")
Release year: 2006
Napalm Death, Century Media
Reviewed by Adam
Album of the month
Twenty years. Not many metal bands can boast a career of this length. This is an achievement which showcases not only a band’s relevance, but also a rare dedication to their craft. England’s Napalm Death, the forefathers and foremost purveyors of grind, while enduring a dizzying number of line-up changes, have enjoyed a career that is nearing twenty-five years in span. Time has obviously not managed to slow them down, as they have returned with Smear Campaign, their twelfth studio full-length and third in the last three years.

This album was released on a very dark note for the band, as former guitarist Jesse Pintado died of liver failure. Although he voluntarily left the band in 2004 to pursue other efforts, he was a key piece of the Napalm Death sound for nearly fifteen years and I would be remiss not to mention his passing.

A Napalm Death album has become about as close as there is in the world of metal to a sure thing. Like them or not, you always know what you’re going to get, a brutal fusion of grindcore and death metal. The only questionable aspect is whether or not the riffs and the songwriting will stand out for you personally. For instance, the previous album, The Code is Red…Long Live the Code, although solid and not without its merits, sounded fairly average to my ears. On the flip side, although I can’t quite point to many tangible reasons, Smear Campaign just works for me, better than any Napalm Death release has in quite some time. The sound for this album, once again courtesy of Russ Russell, is absolutely pulverizing, yet it is technically perfected and professional enough to seem almost graceful in its execution. The riffs found on Smear Campaign are extremely heavy and sound amazing. Barney Greenway is an angry wolverine behind the mic and his vocals are simply some of the most ferocious you will find anywhere. Indeed, Smear Campaign is one intense and enjoyable ride.

The tracks on Smear Campaign generally contain either one or both of two styles, maximum speed grind and grooving death metal. The only setback is that the pace and consistency can make the album seem to blend together at times. This is nothing new to Napalm Death aficionados, but it’s still worth noting. After the out-of-character atmospheric daze of the opening instrumental, Weltschmerz, Sink Fast Let Go explodes in with trademark Napalm Death speed and aggression. Greenway’s vocals sound better than ever as he switches back and forth between high pitched squeals and his almost inhuman growl. The track is highlighted by a savage breakdown at the midway point. One of the most interesting efforts is turned in on Well All is Said and Done, which is easily one of the most accessible Napalm Death songs I can remember hearing. The general flow is different from the norm, as the opening moves along more concise and easy than the extreme brutality the band's listeners are accustomed to hearing. However, little by little as the song goes on, speed and grind elements are added which are effective in keeping the overall sound from seeming out of place. The apex of the album comes in the form of Freedom is the Wage of Sin. Everything is on display here, the punk influenced speed, Greenway’s jaw dropping vocals, and a sledgehammer of a breakdown riff near the close of the song. This song is fine showcase of all the greatest aspects of Napalm Death. Smear Campaign also features a curious and risky guest appearance, as Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering turns in a fine performance on In Deference. She is also credited on the intro track, but only in the form of spoken background ambience. On In Deference, her operatic vocal addition works surprisingly well sailing above the merciless chaos underneath. The rest of the album, while a bit too similar to differentiate adequately in written form, is a solid mixture of death metal and grind. Worthy of mention are Shattered Existence, where Greenway’s roar is layered with a screech which gives it an even more terrifying feel, and Eyes Right Out, which houses a standout guitar performance and some adventurous riffing.

Smear Campaign only heightens the reliability of Napalm Death. For more than twenty years, fans of extreme metal have made them a cornerstone, and it doesn’t appear that will change anytime soon. At the rate they’re going lately, it wouldn’t be that surprising to see them stick around for another twenty years. As long as they can remain consistent and produce albums as astonishingly relentless as Smear Campaign, this is a strong and welcome possibility.
Killing Songs :
Sink Fast Let Go, Freedom is the Wage of Sin, In Deference
Adam quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Napalm Death that we have reviewed:
Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Napalm Death - Utilitarian reviewed by Charles and quoted 95 / 100
Napalm Death - Inside the Torn Apart reviewed by Adam and quoted 71 / 100
Napalm Death - Diatribes reviewed by Goat and quoted 58 / 100
To see all 18 reviews click here
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