Every Napalm Death album ranked from worst to best

Napalm Death in 2022
(Image credit: Gobinder Jhitta)

They may not have platinum records or fill stadiums worldwide, but grindcore innovators Napalm Death are just as integral to heavy music’s evolution as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Slayer or Korn. Their warp-speed amalgam of hardcore punk and brutal riffs brought a new level of extremity to metal from the word go. Then, over the years, they’ve evolved into a myriad of new shapes and styles, without ever putting out a dud album. This is something that makes ranking their 16 full-length releases hugely challenging – but we’re doing it anyway!

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16. Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)

Calling Fear… Napalm’s worst album feels unfair, given it has plenty of moments that rule. However, it lacks the razor-sharp production that Colin Richardson would bring to the band’s finest ’90s work.

15. Diatribes (1996)

Potentially the grooviest and most “accessible” Napalm album, Diatribes has aged much better than you’d have expected. Still, this is just too far removed from the Brummies at their best to be any higher.

14. Words From The Exit Wound (1998)

The final chapter of Napalm’s “experimental” ’90s run, Words… steadied the ship and hinted occasionally that their more intense sound was about to return. We’d be shocked if this is anyone’s favourite, though.

13. Order Of The Leech (2002)

Order…’s a slight step down from Napalm’s return to form two years prior, but still an incredible effort. It showed the band were still happy to be back to their grinding, pulverising ways.

12. Inside The Torn Apart (1997)

The best of Napalm’s groove/grind/death metal years, Inside… marked the return of vocalist Barney Greenway following a short period away, giving a freshness and revitalised energy to these songs.

11. Harmony Corruption (1990)

Nabbing Scott Burns as producer was a huge hint that Napalm were about to fully embrace death metal. Barney’s first album with the band still sounds massive today, but they’d better the style almost immediately.

10. Utopia Banished (1992)

The first album with Danny Herrera on drums, Utopia… is the best death metal album Napalm ever made. The sickening riffs mixed with that punk pace is unstoppable, it gave us the band’s ’90s high point.

9. The Code Is Red – Long Live The Code (2005)

Napalm are one of those rare bands who actually improve with age. The fact that this essentially perfect collection of grinding punk bangers is so low on this list says everything about how great they are.

8. Scum (1987)

Although it’s one of extreme music’s most important releases, Napalm have outdone the music on Scum many, many times since it crawled out of the underground all those years ago. Still, it’s an essential artefact.

7. Apex Predator – Easy Meat (2015)

After some brilliant surprises over their previous couple of albums, Napalm put their foot to the pedal again. Somehow, they made one of the most intense and catchy albums of their career 30-plus years in.

6. From Enslavement To Obliteration (1988)

Enslavement… is everything that Scum was, but improved upon. The debut of current bassist and longest-serving member Shane Embury is the dirtiest, most intense, most savage and most revolting album of the band’s career.

5. Time Waits For No Slave (2009)

Considering the band had experimented so readily over the past decade, Time… is a fairly straightforward Napalm album. Yet, it’s such a fat-sounding, satisfying collection of brutality that it can’t help but score high here.

4. Smear Campaign (2006)

Napalm go symphonic? When Anneke Van Giersbergen was roped in for Smear Campaign, some feared the worst. More fool them, though: as ever, Napalm brought new influences to their sound without compromising one iota of intensity.

3. Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism (2020)

The most recent Napalm album continues their seemingly endless hot streak. This time the influence of Joy Division post-punk and Sonic Youth noise rock are brought to the fore with thrilling results like Amoral.

2. Utilitarian (2012)

Utilitarian is Napalm’s experimental grindcore with sax freakouts from jazz legend John Zorn – what’s not to like? Savagely explorative and full of the kind of risks that a band of Naplam’s vintage rarely take, this is a late period masterpiece.

1. Enemy Of The Music Business (2000)

The ’90s were a tough time for many heavy bands, and Napalm’s line-up changes and stylistic deviations left many fans wondering if they were a spent force. But – when the band returned to the pure, grinding, intensity of their early years with razor-sharp modern production – it felt like a genuine rebirth. There’s really not much that can top Napalm’s ninth album.

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.