I'm continually amazed at NAPALM DEATH's ability to not only stay relevant in the extreme music scene, but also the way in which the band manages to stand out in the grindcore and death metal genres. The last two full-length albums of original material, "Enemy of the Music Business" and "Order of the Leech", saw the band standing closer to the death metal side of the line, even though the distinctive grindcore elements are still firmly in place. What is surprising about "The Code is Red…Long Live the Code" is how those grindcore elements shift back to the forefront. It's almost as if Barney and the boys spent time re-reading the NAPALM DEATH parts (of which there are many) in Albert Mudrian's book, "Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore", and got a little nostalgic.
The album sounds like what I heard (and felt) when I saw NAPALM DEATH perform with CANNIBAL CORPSE this past fall, something that I can't say about the previous two releases. This isn't to say that both albums aren't strong efforts (far from it), only that there is a freshness and renewal of rabidity on "The Code is Red…Long Live the Code". The disc has a live energy to it that is electrifying. Mitch Harris' distinctive guitar tone and style, as well as Danny Herrera's classic grindcore drumming, are just plain savage. Herrera's kit battery is something akin to controlled chaos, as opposed to the mechanical blasts that are often heard in technical death metal. Danny's approach works exceedingly well on this album just like it does on VENOMOUS CONCEPT's "Retroactive Abortion" (an album that Shane Embury also appears on).
Song-wise, it's an all-out assault of sheer brute force and lots of speed (yeah, that kind too). The title track, "Silence is Deafening", and "Climate Controllers", are but a few of an album's worth of superior hardcore-inflected, death metal-laced grindcore. "Right you Are", "Diplomatic Immunity", and "Pay for the Privilege of Breathing" are the quick hitters, all clocking in at less than two minutes ("Right you Are" is less than one!). Hearing Jello Biafra's demented vocals on "The Great and the Good" had me smiling from ear to ear. As if Jello wasn't enough, HATEBREED's Jamey Jasta and CARCASS' Jeff Walker contribute guest parts to the album as well.
It's all caffeine overdoses and uncontrollable seizures until the fourteenth track, "Morale", throws you for a loop. The song's doomy beat, creepy atmosphere (including Barney's bizarre vocals), and machine-like chill is a sharp left turn from the road drive by the previous tunes. "Our Pain is their Power" is more or less an extension of "Morale", clocking in at just over two minutes and completing the strange trip. A tripped out video of "Morale" is also included. So much for predictability.
"The Code is Red…Long Live the Code" takes the spirit of the early years and combines it with the impeccable musicianship and sheer rage of the latter day material. I happen to think it's a lethal combination.