Sound — 6
Being one of the fires that ignited from the forward-thinking extreme sound of Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror rode a line between the anarchic likes of crust punk while also carrying the torch of the freshly-minted grindcore genre, nearly three decades ago with their ground-laying debut album "A Holocaust in Your Head." But though they continued that hybrid sound with a few EPs, ENT would start to veer more towards death metal territory in their long-awaited second original album, "Damage 381," and even further in their third album, "Being and Nothing." However, whether it was because the death metal curve wasn't ENT's strongest suit, or because "Being and Nothing" was fairly flat and lackluster, many listeners wanted ENT to go back to practicing their pioneered crustgrind sound - they would eventually get this after ENT made a comeback in 2008 with their fourth album, "Law of Retaliation," which not only elaborated upon their crustgrind sound, but brought back the original second vocalist Phil Vane to perform alongside founding frontman Dean Jones.
With this return to a classic-functioning ENT, it would end up being fairly short-lived, and Vane would tragically pass away in 2011. Nevertheless, ENT would continue forward in the crustgrind fusion path they originally paved, and their self-titled fifth album is a simple testament to the band's root style. Whereas "Law of Retaliation" sought to expand on the band's tricks and make a more full-bodied album, "Extreme Noise Terror" starkly rehashes the raw and unadulterated crustgrind sound from the band's beginnings. There's much less jittery blastbeat/tremolo riffs like in their past few albums, and more of the quick 1-2-3 chord riffs (see "Punk Rock Patrol," "Dogma, Intolerance, Control," "Think Outside the Box"), and lead guitar-work is less flashy and much muddier than in previous albums (see "Last Fix of Fame" and "Cage Paralysis").
Taking Vane's place alongside Jones is Ben McCrow, and he and Jones make a good dual vocal force - trading growls and barks in "Chained & Crazed," "An Endless Cycle of Misery," and "Sheep in Wolf's Clothing," and some static distortion is applied on some of the growling vocals in "I Like Coca (Outo "I Like Cola")" and "Cash and Trash" further intensifies the extraneously discordant vocal work. That static distortion is the only new trick that appears in the album, and because of the fit-to-form appeal of "Extreme Noise Terror," much of it sounds and runs the same; from the same-sounding chord progressions and hammering rhythms, and even the midtempo gear-shift in "No One Is Innocent" that makes it one of the more interesting cuts on the album ends up being duplicated in "Chained & Crazed."
Lyrics — 7
Even more set in their ways than with their sound, ENT's lyrics are still dependably fixated on guttural rage towards social injustices of all sorts. And still so, it's nearly impossible to discern most words that Jones and McCrow bark, growl, and verbally vomit (especially in the distorted "Cash and Trash" and the filthy spewing of "Only in It for the Music Pt. 27 (Black Putrefaction)"), but key phrases that contain the most sonic clarity make for defined guidance, as well as interweaving with each other. The simple barking of "Dogma is control!" in "Dogma, Intolerance, Control" and the claim of preternatural savagery within humans in "Chained & Crazed" ("We live for violence!") dovetail with the condemning of religious-fueled war in "No One Is Innocent" ("We make a war that never ends... No one is innocent!") - which hits all the more poignantly after the recent attacks in Paris, France. Above all of the specific manmade and man-driven plights of the world, "An Endless Cycle of Misery" sets the perfect juxtaposing tagline for the flawed, perpetually-churning macrocosm of humanity: "Self-destroy to pro-create!" One could duly criticize ENT for continuing to draw from the same well of lyrical inspiration, but ENT would likely retort with criticizing the world for still keeping on with its barbaric, unjust ways.
Overall Impression — 6
There's no doubt that ENT's proper return to the uncut crustgrind fusion sound that first gained them their notoriety in the hardcore scene will go off swimmingly with the dedicated crust punks and grindcore fanatics. But with that fundamental appeal to a pure practice of their niche genre, "Extreme Noise Terror" pays the price for such by being undoubtedly singular, clearly being a derived descendent of "Holocaust in Your Head," and being less intriguing than the expansive motives of the previous "Law of Retaliation." Nevertheless, with ENT's clear intention of simply revamping and relishing in the visceral energy of crustgrind, "Extreme Noise Terror" certainly succeeds in that goal.