Punishment in Capitals (Reissue) by Napalm Death
Release date : July 2007
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Forming in 1981, Napalm Death are hailed as the originators of Grindcore music. The style came to life when the band set their signature “grinding” guitar sounds atop a recognizably energetic Hardcore sound. The result is a fury of sound which has thus far lasted thirteen studio albums, nine EPs, four live albums and a vast array of split CDs, 7”, demos, singles, and compilations. For the modern Grindcore fan, it can be hard to associate Napalm Death’s sound with the trends of 2007. These trends prominently features bands like The Red Chord, Cattle Decapitation, and Birdflesh. The style has certainly evolved, abandoning the Punk / DIY ethic that carried Napalm Death all the way to the top.
Originally released in 2002, the reissue of Punishment in Capitals comes just one short year after the band’s thirteenth studio album Smear Campaign. Featuring a ninety minute set which consists of twenty-eight unrelenting songs, this show was recorded live in the truest sense; one night, one take. Recorded at London's ULU on April 12th 2002, it was a benefit for S.H.A.C. – the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign.
Vocalist Barney Greenway’s political viewpoints have always spoken loud and clear through the band’s music, but at this particular show the stars aligned. Not only does the band sound great but, given the reason for the show in the first place, you can hear them making a difference. Influencing people, Napalm Death motivates them to at least think instead of blindly following. Few live albums can claim the power of this one. One of the most interesting things about this album is the fact that, given a successful twenty one year career prior to this album, they still chose to perform three covers songs.
In my opinion, this is one of the critical aspects which set the band apart from the new generation. Napalm Death knows where they come from, and they use nearly every opportunity they have to bring those bands to you. Included in this performance is Raw Power’s “Politicians”, “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” as originally done by the Dead Kennedys, and last but not least, Death’s “Back From the Dead”. Place all three of these songs in a blender, and voila! You’ve got Napalm Death, both musically and lyrically. Of course, most of this set is comprised of the band’s original material. Opening with “Lucid Fairytale”, the band unleash their inner monstrosities while stopping barely long enough to catch their breath between songs. Having never seen them live but knowing how political their lyrics are, Greenway’s lack of banter with the audience is rather surprising. He introduces a song here and there, occasionally using a couple of introductory style sentences. For the most part though, this is just musical intensity. Thankfully many of the songs speak for themselves, needing no real introduction. Songs like “Vermin”, “Suffer the Children”, “Volume of Neglect”, “From Enslavement to Obliteration”, and “Greed Killing” ring out loud and clear, attacking the status quo in the most Punk way possible. As if you’d have expected less, right?
This is one of the bigger surprises in the land of reissues lately. The album is really not that old, and there are Napalm Death titles which are a lot more difficult to purchase than this one. On the other hand, it’s not so hard to understand why someone would want to reissue this album – it’s an album that deserves broader attention, is easily the band’s best non-studio release, and will unquestionably lend some legitimacy to any label. So, if you don’t have this then you should consider adding it to your collection. Even if you don’t particularly like the band, this is a living history of one of the most influential bands in Extreme music.