Look, let’s not waste anyone’s time here: you all know who Napalm Death are, and if – by any chance you don’t, well, then there’s frankly no hope for you by now. To say Napalm Death are an institution is probably something the West Midlands noisy pioneers would struggle to accept, but frankly they occupy a strata of extreme music where they are essentially the Black Sabbath or Motorhead of extreme music. They’re top tier, must-listen to musicians. They haven’t made a bad album in absolutely years, and, in fact, “Apex Predator”, their last release from 2015 was (to my ears at least) their best album ever.
They also don’t just pump out lazy compilations for the sake of it. This helpful collection spans the years 2004 to the present day, collecting all of the various region-only bonus tracks and cover versions from album sessions recorded at the same time as the main releases. To that end, I don’t think there is anything here that was easily found on the same albums from the time period, and there’s therefore something for all levels of Napalm Death listeners here: the material presented is of the same top-quality that you’d expect, but it also brings together a whole load of rarities for the completist collectors among us.
The most puzzling thing for me was why it was that certain tracks weren’t included in the original releases! Of course, there’s an ongoing fascination for extreme metal fans with the subtle art of the cover version, and there are a whole lot of them here for the aficionado to pore over. I’m not much of a punk or hardcore kind of dude, and so a fair number of them were unknown to me in the first place, but I have to say that the version of Sacrilege’s “Lifeline” is absolutely brilliant, with the thrashy guitar accents left intact, but elsewhere the song given that spiffy Napalm Death furious makeover. Elsewhere, there’s just the most stunning version of The Cardiac’s “To Go Off and Things”, which produces an insane whirl, and some of the most subtle Napalm Death weirdness of the band’s career.
With thirty one songs in just under ninety minutes, “Coded Smears” presents a masterclass in how to give back to your fans. Not only is the double album jam-packed with sheer, sheer quality, it’s expertly curated and an exhilarating ride from start to finish. It also has some moments that you may not expect from Napalm Death – some experiments here and there in tone and texture, as with the atmospheric “Weltzschmertz (Extended Apocalyptic Version)”. This one, folks, is a no brainer.
(9/10 Chris Davison)