Album Review : Napalm Death - Time Waits for No Slave (2009)
If you ask whoever you know that isn't actively into death metal for their opinion on death metal, you're going to get a lot of: it's too angry, it's too violent, it's an undecipherable wall of notes accompanied by inhuman growls, whatever. It's more or less why us death metal fans enjoy the genre. Most people don't know, but there's a LOT more fucked up material out there. This month, I want to initiate you guys to death metal's fucked-up knife wielding cousin with learning disabilities grindcore. And what better way to start an introduction to this glorious compound subgenre of extreme music than to discuss the band that more or less invented it Napalm Death and perhaps my favorite album of theirs: the boundless and furious Time Waits for No Slave.
About fifteen seconds into the record, the difference between conventional death metal what Napalm Death are doing will start to emerge. In fact, the first two songs on Time Waits for No Slave Strong-Arm and Diktat represent the band's body of work quite well: pounding blast beats, fucking tsunamis of down-tuned guitars, thudding and obsessive bass lines and the sympathetic shrieks of rage by lead vocalist Barney Greenway. Napalm Death's grindcore doesn't waste time trying to wow you with clever song structure, it's trying to pulverize your face.
If you feel overwhelmed by the music of Napalm Death and don't know whether you're listening to a good album or not, which can happen, get your rage-o-meter out. They're a political band and this album is very much about political issues such as corruption, oppression and working class rebellion. They were angry about injustice before it was cool. Time Waits for No Slave scores a solid 11 on any musical rage calculator which utilizes a scale of 0 to 10. That's how enraged this album is, but it's not the only reason why it's memorable within the game-changing legacy of Napalm Death.
Now, Time Waits for No Slave starts throwing curve balls at listeners right around the title track (number 5 in the track listing), which incorporates clean (albeit) raspy vocals. Because that's the kind of luxury playing grindcore can afford you: there's no real rules to it. It's a genre that was initially intended to be a mix of hardcore punk and death metal, so old school grindcore bands like Napalm Death play music to express feelings and not the opposite, the level of technical mastery in their music is an afterthought both for members of Napalm Death and their listeners. We'll never blame these guys for not having clear ideas of what they want to do.
Anyway, they include tormented clean ensemble vocals with an almost Gregorian quality to them on songs like Time Waits for No Slave, Life and Limb, personal favorite of mine Fallacy Dominion and many others. I wouldn't say it's fully implemented in their music. Clean vocals never have a moment to themselves that make you rethink the way it's doing music. It's just another layer thrown into the musical rip tide. It's meant to show there's more than one emotion conveyed here. There's not just anger, but a lot of anxiety and loathing too. It's just expressed very angrily. Greenway, Embury, Harris and Herrera are not the type to mope over an acoustic guitar when it's time to say something meaningful.
Technically, you could say Time Waits for No Slave and the later-years music of Napalm Death in general should be labeled as death grind. The highly technical drumming and the growling technique of Barney Greenway are influenced by metal. There are melody and groove here and there like on songs like On the Brink of Extinction and Larceny of the Heart, which blur the line between death metal and grindcore. At the end of the day, though, Napalm Death never denies its punk rock roots both musically and lyrically. They use breakdowns instead of solos in most of their songs, prioritize ways of delivering their message with a maximum kick in the ass rather than showing technical mastery. Time Waits for No Slave SOMETIMES crosses into death metal, but it's still very much a grindcore/death grind record to me. It is music meant to shock and destabilize.
Lots of metal fans don't think of grindcore like a proper subgenre because of its straightforward nature. Think of it as down tuned, angry-as-fuck hardcore punk. At least, the way Napalm Death first conceptualized it. The genre has gone a long way since their seminal record Scum and the band itself has gone a long way too. Time Waits for No Slave rides a thin line between grindcore and death metal, showing the band's open mindedness and influences. It's not the easiest record to help you establish the difference between the two, but it shows how one trickles into the other easily.
There is some grindcore that is unmistakable from death metal, but the two genres are bound to co-exist, something the FOUNDERS of the genre understood and used to kick out asses on Time Waits for No Slave. It's an excellent album to get your ass kicked to. It will make you a better human being, which I believe is the endgame of Napalm Death's music. It clearly isn't the endgame of every grindcore bands, though. But that's a story for another day.
Bangers: Strong-Arm, Fallacy Dominion, On the Brink of Extinction, Larceny of the Heart