Published Feb 20, 2012Birmingham, England's Napalm Death are one of grindcore's most influential and revered bands, and while none of the original members remain in the group, the lineup has been consistent for the last two decades. Now, they're about to release their 14th studio album, Utilitarian, which frontman Mark "Barney" Greenway explains is an apt title for the record, even if he's not necessarily a utilitarian himself.
"The general idea of it is the achievement of total happiness; all the good actions create good consequences. I'm bringing that parallel down and I am saying that I did my best as a person," Greenway tells Exclaim! "When there is a negative impact on somebody else somewhere down the line, I generally will refrain from doing that action. But I think within that there is self-doubt because when you live ethically to that degree, if the end result is to try to make a difference and you don't see instant results, then you become impatient."
Greenway's lyrics on Utilitarian are rooted in this kind of impatience, which he says is a common human trait.
"You expect results tomorrow, in front of your face. That self-doubt could lead you to think, 'Well why don't I just live my life anyway and if there's no instant results, just carry on regardless?' But I think you should persevere because if you just do things and don't consider the consequence of the actions, you leave a vacuum for the very powers, or mechanisms, that you're critical of or protest against. You leave a vacuum for them to fill that and exploit situations and people with low-level forms of resistance."
While Utilitarian's lyrical content can also be interpreted sociopolitically, which Napalm Death have maintained in their subject matter since their inception, Greenway says politics is not the starting point when it comes to writing lyrics.
"Where I'm coming from, fundamentally, is as a human being, as a humanitarian," he explains. "Yes, as a person, I come from the left, that's my background, but I think beyond anything, we have to rediscover our humanity and I think that requires coming back to understanding what we are and what we're capable of as human beings."
Napalm Death's thought-provoking lyrical content, combined with their revolutionary sound -- a mix of hardcore and death metal, with guttural vocals, fast tempos and concise song structures -- have made them grindcore legends for generations. But it's a far cry from what Greenway expected when he joined the band in 1989.
"I thought I'd get two or three years out of it at tops, and then I would say, 'Oh yeah, time to go and do something else.' I have good memories, playing CBGB like two weeks after leaving my regular job in England. It was a pretty insane time, and here I am. We persevered because we have drive, motivation and a spontaneity to us, and just continued on."
Greenway says being considered one of the most influential grindcore bands to date is flattering, but he doesn't get carried away by it.
"You're just as good as your next album. If you start to believe in your own hype, you will fuck up pretty quickly."
Utilitarian is out February 28 via Century Media.