By any measure, Napalm Death is one of metal's most important bands. In the early eighties, the British band pioneered a bullet-fast fusion of death metal and hardcore eventually called grindcore. Napalm Death earned the favor of the BBC's John Peel and appeared on a 1988 cover of NME as "the fastest band in the world." Indeed, its 1.3-second blast "You Suffer" is one of the shortest songs ever recorded. "It's just everything going at a hundred miles per hour, basically," bassist Shane Embury told Spin in 1991.
But as Napalm Death aged, it evolved, incorporating elements of noise, industrial electronics, and free jazz, while proving itself a restless beast. The band collaborated with free jazz wizard John Zorn, plus members of Carcass and the Dead Kennedys. In 2013, Napalm Death even worked with ceramicist Keith Harrison on Bustleholme, a performance piece in which the band played a set through speakers encased in tiles, a sort of effigy of Thatcher-era public housing. Ultimately, this open approach to making art, more than speed itself, may be Napalm Death's defining trait.
Napalm Death remains volatile and vital. Last year's Apex Predator—Easy Meat is arguably one of the best records in a catalog stuffed with great ones. It detonates blast beats between mid-tempo lurches. "Smash a Single Digit" features a legitimate hook. "Dear Slum Landlord..." rides a slithering melody, with frontman Mark "Barney" Greenway chanting more than screaming. Today, Napalm Death eschews most of the confines of the genre it created. Instead, the elder act has grown to become one of metal's most consistently thrilling and surprising units. With Skemäta and Necrocosm.