Napalm Death - Utopia Banished
Earache Records
Grindcore/Death Metal
15 songs (39:12)
Release year: 1992
Napalm Death, Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

After the almost pure Death Metal of 1990’s Harmony Corruption, Napalm Death changed quite suddenly and reintroduced the Grindcore elements in a very strong way for album number four. The closest comparison to Utopia Banished is actually Grind legends Terrorizer, Jesse Pintado clearly having more influence on the band than before. Another change was the replacement of early member Mick Harris with the more technical Danny Herrera, and the difference is clear; Harris always had an element of the chaotic to his drumming, whilst Herrera is unbelievably tight and controlled. He’s one of the most underrated sticksmen in Metal, and his drumming on Utopia Banished is a counterpoint to the considerably looser overall playing than was on Harmony Corruption. Perhaps Napalm Death didn’t want to be pigeonholed with the whole ‘Scott Burns’ Death Metal scene, but whatever the reason, it resulted in a rather strange album that often gets overlooked due to its place in the band’s discography, sandwiched between Harmony Corruption and the experimental Fear, Emptiness, Despair.

Although as intense and, well, grinding as you’d expect, Utopia Banished suffers for its art, and lacks the catchiness that Napalm Death are usually capable of working deep within the brutal music. Aside from the two strongest tracks I Abstain and The World Keeps Turning, the album lacks standout moments. Those two songs are excellent however; I Abstain far ahead of its time with a technical Death/Grind workout and a brief but killer solo, and The World Keeps Turning is a torrent of mid-paced, almost Bolt Thrower-ish Death Metal that’s one of my all-time favourite songs from the band for sheer intensity alone.

Other moments, like the driving brutality of Dementia Access with its awesome, almost tribal-drummed breakdown, are good, but not quite at the high quality that we’ve come to expect from Napalm Death. Make no mistake, the band have never released an album that one could call ‘bad’, but some are undeniably better than others and Utopia Banished is, alas, one of those others. In terms of the band’s history, it’s an milestone, for the technicality, the mixture of Death and Grind, and the groundbreaking ambient intro and outro pieces, which I’ve avoided mentioning thus far because, truth be told, they’re a bit rubbish, Contemptuous starting well in a sort of Godflesh-y way but going on for far too long. What aren’t rubbish, far from it, are Barney’s growls, as excellent as ever, and the lyrics. Napalm Death had switched to a more intelligent, almost poetic form of wordplay on their previous album, but here it really takes off. What other band could criticise bigotry in such language as: ‘Get your kicks through persecution, used as scapegoats for your exterior doubts/Exposing weakness - retarded, unworthy/I cannot begin to comprehend how you wear such shame with vigour - homophobic, race antagonist/Harmony can only flourish with mutual regard’ (Aryanisms) lyrics as compelling to read as they are to listen to.

Ultimately, although Utopia Banished is a must-have for fans, those seeking only the very best of Napalm Death can safely skip it. Sadly with this band, killer album artwork isn’t always an indication of a killer album beneath...

Killing Songs :
I Abstain, Dementia Access, The World Keeps Turning, Aryanisms
Goat quoted 73 / 100
Adam quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Napalm Death that we have reviewed:
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
Napalm Death - Words from the Exit Wound reviewed by Adam and quoted 74 / 100
To see all 17 reviews click here
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