Napalm Death will always be best known as the band that, in the mid-to-late Eighties, united the aggression of hardcore with the darkness of metal, sped the whole thing up to outrageous tempos, and topped it off with the catchy moniker of grindcore. And more than three decades after landmark releases like From Enslavement to Obliteration — which landed at number 59 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Metal Albums list — they’re still pretty damn great at summoning that same sort of mad-dog intensity. But what’s fascinating is just how versatile Napalm Death have turned out to be. Consider the new single “Logic Ravaged by Brute Force,” which arrives ahead of their first studio LP in five years.
The track centers on an ominous midtempo churn, clearly indebted to the gloomy post-punk of Killing Joke, a prime influence on the band’s moodier, more experimental side. Vocalist Barney Greenway talk-sings ominously during the verses, only unleashing his trademark strident roar during the chorus, when guitarist Mitch Harris — still recording with the band though he hasn’t played live with Napalm Death since 2014 — breaks into a fist-pumping metallic riff. A brief bridge pits Greenway’s wordless screams and drummer Danny Herrera’s ferocious fills against a haze of noxious guitars, but mostly the track sticks to a compact, even catchy verse-chorus structure. By Napalm Death standards, it’s an anthem. (“It’s the coldness and desperation of the guitar chords and voice that swung it,” Greenway said in a press release of why the band settled on this song as a single.)
The track won’t shock anyone who followed the band through Nineties albums like Diatribes, which privileged groove and texture over feral intensity, or more recent LPs where they threw in hints of everything from free jazz to drone. Yet it’s still a reminder that Napalm Death are simply a great underground band who refuse to be boxed in by grindcore or any other niche style. They certainly don’t have to keep pushing as they edge toward their 40th anniversary, but we’re psyched to see that they are.