If there are two things I am, unequivocally—aside from awesome and infallible—it’s these:
I am a Napalm Death fan.
And I am a completist.
So this two-disc collection was custom made for the likes of me.
Pulling together the odds ‘n’ sods from The Code Is Red… Long Live The Code onward, Coded Smears And More Uncommon Slurs (henceforth to be known as CSAMUS) is a collection of Napalm offerings from splits with Converge, the Melvins, and Melt Banana, plus a plethora of bonus tracks from various international or otherwise special releases, the charity single released after the Nepal earthquake in 2015, and a few other left-overs, left-behinds, and left turns.
It’s testament to the band’s winning formula that CSAMUS holds together as well as it does. There are thirty-one tracks here – although one is an extended version of Smear Campaign’s martial-symphonic opener, “Weltschmerz” – recorded in various sessions across a decade, and yet they fit together seamlessly. Overall, as with any compilation of its kind, CSAMUS wasn’t put together wholly as a listening experience, per se, as an album would have been. And yet it works perfectly well as one, albeit a lengthy one – offering up vicious rippers like “We Hunt In Packs” (a hold-over from Time Waits For No Slave) or “Everything In Mono” (from the Utilitarian sessions) and dissonant droners like the Swans-y “Omnipresent Knife In Your Back” (also from Time Waits…) and “Oxygen Of Duplicity,” from the split with The Melvins. It’s in the incorporation of those latter moments – the non-blasting, non-lightspeed sidesteps into noise and weirdness – that modern Napalm has truly sharpened its attack, and so it’s little surprise that many of CSAMUS’ best moments are those: the two above, “Earthwire,” “Atheist Runt”…
Lest anyone ever accuse Napalm Death of forgetting their roots in punk and other outsider music, there are covers of Japanese hardcore noisemongers Gauze (the killer shout-along “Crash The Pose”), British weirdo-pop outfit The Cardiacs (“To Go Off And Things”), the massively underrated Sacrilege (the thrashing “Lifeline”), Swedish crusties G-Anx (“Clouds Of Cancer / Victims Of Ignorance,” replete with piano), Dutch punks Gepopel (the bouncy “Paracide”), and forgotten German thrashers Despair (“Outconditioned”). All are stellar, imbued with that patented Napalm Death world-crushing aggression and Barney’s inimitable blast-furnace bellow, but I’d be lying if I said that any rose above the original Napalm Death material that surrounds them, which is further testament to the band’s current songwriting highs. When the tracks you leave off the album – or at least, the ones you leave off most versions of the album – are this good, you know you’re doing something right.
It’s been three years since Apex Predator, and the band is hopefully busy readying the next studio album. (And hopefully Mitch Harris will return to write and play, as his contributions here are among CSAMUS’ most interesting.) Until then, there’s plenty of meat on these two discs to keep fans satiated whilst we wait, and Coded Smears And More Uncommon Slurs is as good as anyone could’ve ever hoped, the rare collection of outtakes and rarities that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the albums that birthed them.
But seriously, that album cover is … unsettling. You’ll have to forgive us for amending it.