Ah, the covers album. Nothing is so tricky for a reviewer as this mysterious beast. Does one grade the songs based on how much better/worse the cover is than the original, or should the songs be taken as unique entities? That, my friends, is the million dollar question. Five years ago, British grindcore pioneers Napalm Death released a nifty little five-song E.P. entitled LEADERS NOT FOLLOWERS. That release saw the band take a shot at songs by Death, The Dead Kennedys and Slaughter among others. The popularity of this release with its fans led Napalm Death to go all out and record 19 songs for LEADERS NOT FOLLOWERS: PART 2. The Sepultura and Kreator tracks and maybe Hirax or Hellhammer (an early incarnation of Celtic Frost) would be well-known to most metalheads, but otherwise, these bands are a complete mystery. Agnostic Front is a legendary hardcore act, but the majority of the chosen tracks are from mid-80s underground punk and hardcore acts like The Offenders, Anti-Cimex and Siege. I know, “WHO?!?!” Still, Napalm Death obviously heralds these bands as influences and while a good lot of the songs don’t appeal to me in the least, I have to give the band kudos for laying them out there for its fans to see where their roots lie.
“Lowlife,” originally done by Cryptic Slaughter, is a ripping track. Vocals are split between Mark “Barney” Greenway and guitarist Mitch Harris and the intensity of this track is something else. Harris’ shrieking thrash-styled vocals off-set Greenway’s deep roar perfectly and the riffs laid down by Harris create a cool groove during the choruses. “Messiah” comes from Hellhammer’s 1983 SATANIC RITES demo and is the winner on this CD. Hellhammer featured future Celtic Frost founders Tom G. Warrior and Martin Ain and this track is a slice of pure blackened death Hell. “Fire Death Fate” is a brutal death track by Bay Area old schoolers, Insanity, and is another of my favorites here. Raw, fast and underproduced, this track must sound exactly like the original did back in 1983. As for the more familiar material, Napalm Death’s take on Kreator’s “Riot of Violence” and Sepultura’s “Troops of Doom” are just okay. Greenway does a decent job of emulating Mille Petrozza and Max Cavalera, but the rest of the band just isn’t up to the precision of the originals. These sound like a garage band covering their heroes on a drunken Saturday night jam session.
**As a bonus, there is a live clip of the band performing “Lowlife.”
LEADERS NOT FOLLOWERS: PART 2 is going to have a very limited audience. Die-hard fans of Napalm Death will swallow this up and ask for seconds but the rest of us should definitely proceed with caution.
KILLER KUTS: “Lowlife,” “Messiah,” “Fire Death Fate
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