At this point in the band’s career, many things have changed since the release of their critically acclaimed Scum
, which laid the foundation for grindcore. By the time Harmony Corruption
came out, Lee Dorian and Bill Steer were out of the group, and it made an impressionable mark on the band’s sound. After From Enslavement to Obliteration
, the band begun to take a higher interest in death metal, and incorporated more influences from the genre into their music. Rather than continue with the hyper-speed drumming, riffs, and fuzz bass, the band slowed down and made a heavier sound. Unfortunately for the group, an unsteady grasp on the newfound trend gave the album Harmony Corruption
a rather awkward twist. The production was a lot to be desired, and the album as a whole was just convoluted in almost every way. Between the band featuring different death metal vocalists as backup for some of the tracks, and using the tracks recorded with Lee Dorian and Bill Steer from the Mentally Murdered EP
, the album just couldn’t flow properly. It was the not the brightest hour in ND’s history. However, the release of Utopia Banished
in 1992 proves that even amidst the topsy-turvy scheduling on the band’s part (and yet another lineup change), the group can still produce a coherent album.
still shows signs that the band is continuing to take heavy influences from the death metal genre, but the main deal with this album is that overall, it’s more well-balanced. The only other album the band did that falls under this category that would come out half as good as this would be Fear, Emptiness, Despair
. The production proves to be masterful in comparison to this album’s predecessor; and don’t get me wrong, I’m all for incredibly raw and sludgy production, but the way the band handled it in Harmony Corruption
is painfully unsatisfying. This album on the other hand offers up a more suitable, and acceptable sound that matches with what the band is going for musically. This album lets up on the death metal-esque composition, and shows the band focusing once again on their signature grindcore sound, but not revolving entirely back to it. The rapid-paced drumming exists, and Mark Greenway is shrieking as well as providing some good gutturals, and the tracks are getting shorter. Utopia Banished
is essentially the voice of a band who’ve found their footing amongst the constant changeups within the group.
When it comes to the instrumentation of this album, to put it simply, it’s simple yet effective. You’ll quickly get a glimpse of just how much more range there is in Mark Greenway’s vocals, and how effective that is alongside faster, and often groovier riffs. The guitar work on this album is made whole simply by good production value; the checks and balances aspect in this album really bodes well in boasting the highest quality medium of expression, so much so that even the bass can be heard. This is also the first album by the band to feature drummer Danny Herrera, in place of Mick Harris. While a good and reputable face of the old-school band was lost, not much in the way of musicianship was sacrificed in the changeup. Danny slams almost as hard, although there’s not as much precision in his drumming as with Mick. It’s fast, and it’s definitely catchy, but it’s often over the top; it doesn’t quite match up with the speed and context of the guitars. On the other hand, between Greenway and Herrera it’s as though they were built for each other on this album. They work together magnificently, but the guitars can be blocked out at times.
When all is said and done (and I know many people will disagree with this), this is the high point for the band’s newfound hand at a death metal/grindcore combo. Not even Fear, Emptiness, Despair
can match up to this. But it does share one flaw with the rest of ND’s attempts at this style of music: it suffers from repetition. Utopia Banished
contains the least amount of repetition among the three death metal/grind albums the band has made, but it’s in there. As much range as Greenway possesses, he still doesn’t hold back from hitting the same notes again and again. Almost everything else about this album though speaks up in a higher voice than anything the band has done before they started going experimental, and is their best recording since FETO. Too bad it’s not often remembered as such.