Hall of Fame Countdown: Napalm Death’s “The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code”

In 2005, grindcore pioneers Napalm Death fully got out of the experimental-era kinda-funk they’d fallen into; sure, they’d released two getting-there grind albums but the band just didn’t quite have the old Napalm magic back. With The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code, the band managed to get that magic back, big-time, and they also kickstarted their grind into a blast-beat perfection that’s continued to this very day.

This album was the rebirth: with a new record label, a (kinda) new lineup, and a few guest vocalists for kicks, the band delivered the grind/death album fans had been holding out for. We recently inducted The Code Is Red in our Hall of Fame in our special Napalm Death issue (which you can buy here, and considering it includes a flexi with a new Napalm Death song on it, you might want to consider doing it sooner rather than later, because once they’re gone, they’re gone). Here, we’re going to go through the album and rank the songs from worst to best; the usual warning when dealing with a complete grind blasterpiece applies: all the songs are really, really good.

15. Our Pain Is their Power

Within the context of the album, this two-minute closer is excellent, an absolutely fantastic, sober, and thoughtful way to end off this incredible album. On its own, it’s just kinda there, so, here we are, as intros and outros by default end up at the bottom of these lists. However, grab our special Napalm Death issue to find out why at least one member of the band wanted to end this album with this song; it adds a whole other layer of intensity to it.

14. Vegetative State

Every song on this album rules, “Vegetative State” rules, it just all rules. But something’s gotta be low on the list, so this great grinder it is, the band checking off all the Napalm Death boxes with an admirable capability, the song not necessarily being one you can remember from seeing the song title alone, but it’s a great song nonetheless.

13. Sold Short

Placed at track 8 of 16, “Sold Short” is a great piece of mid-tempo Napalm, the band displaying a damn near bouncy and—gulp—playful sound here, Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta hopping back for his second guest slot behind the mic on this album. Lots of energy here, and some nice variety to spice things up mid-album.

12. Pay for the Privilege of Breathing

I love these short ragers, all 1:49 of this song being pure energy, Napalm racing to the end with a fast punk/grind determination, the song not being wildly memorable but making up for it with pure intensity, passion, and sincerity. Nothing to complain about here, at all.

11. The Great and the Good

Love the song title, love the punk rock vibe and sound, and you get Jello Biafra, to boot. It’s certainly jarring hearing the legendary voice suddenly jump in the song at 1:30 into its 4:12 runtime, but jarring is what Biafra does; here, the band and the man are obviously in philosophical alignment, which extends through the sonics of the song, creating a totally insane and completely awesome clash of the titans that is not as unlikely as it seems on first blush.

10. Instruments of Persuasion

Jasta makes his first of two guest appearances on the album here, and having the hardcore bellower on this track is actually nowhere near as weird as that sounds: his screams, which he trades off wonderfully with vocalist Barney Greenway’s shouts in the verses, actually sound quite at home backed up by a band that is considerably heavier than his day job. The song shows Napalm killing their mid-tempo sound, a nice mid-album breather in some ways, with a bit of variety provided by Jasta.

9. Pledge Yourself to You

In 2005, it was pretty darn exciting to see Carcass’ Jeff Walker on anything, never mind a Napalm Death album. Here, the gore-grind legend lays down some appropriately gurgly and gory vocals, even though he ends up dwarfed by Greenway’s roar. It’s a battle of the extreme metal vocal legends for the ages, and the song that it’s happening over top of rules as well, with some great disorienting guitar work and—as always—a super drum performance.

8. Morale

I love it when Napalm Death show their love of Swans and go slow and heavy, here, “Morale” doing just that as the second to last song, the band evoking the best of Utopia Banished’s guitar melodies during this near-five-minute near-album-closer, a song that works incredibly well after all the grinding madness that preceded it. Then, its closing minute takes things down a step even further into the haunting abyss. Not bad.

7. All Hail the Grey Dawn

Here, Napalm show just how heavy they’re capable of getting, and it’s heavy, the band laying down some killer death metal riffs for a mid-tempo section that stomps and pummels. Killer riffs all over the place here, the band kicking off the second half of the album with a song that’s strong enough to be track two or, maybe—some food for thought here—track one of a whole different album.

6. Striding Purposefully Backwards

Killer vocal tradeoffs, killer riffs, killer songwriting dynamics… it’s all so killer I just can’t stop saying that word, the band going for it hard here on this late album killer (sorry, I’ll stop), one that ends and leaves you spent, staring at the ground wondering what just happened.

5. Climate Controllers

If you stuck around through Napalm Death’s wilderness era (see our special issue for more on that), you’ll probably love “Climate Controllers,” as it basically sounds like something off of Fear, Emptiness, Despair with more enjoyable production and less awkwardness. And while no one wants a Napalm Death song to sound like Fear Factory, when it’s quickly thrown in between a bunch of more standard Napalm grinders, damned if it doesn’t work really, really good. Love the interplay between the blasting and the riff that stretches from 1:52 to 2:01, too.

4. Diplomatic Immunity

One of the great things about this album is its pacing: throwing two short and fast grinders in as songs two and three was brilliant, and “Diplomatic Immunity” is an absolutely fantastic example of grindcore being catchy (that drumming! Those are memorable grind drum lines, and that’s awesome) and brutal. Seriously, this is a well-written song behind all the grinding and blasting, the band utilizing dynamics, smart guitar-drum interplay, and a great vocal hook (“cowboy killer!”) to huge success here.

3. The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code

Coming in as the fourth song, the title track gets expansive at 3:32, and while it’s still grind and, really, quite punk, there’s some big mid-era groove here, before things go fast-faster-fastest and Greenway lays down some great grunting and growling while the band grooves then grinds… it’s all here, man, the band even doing some fun blasting-while-the-riffs-are-slow stuff, which always rules. The first third of this album is insanely good, and this is a perfect example why.

2. Right You Are

How cool was it that Napalm Death put a 52-second grind song as the second song here? Incredibly cool. Context aside, it’s a killer grind song; context in place, it’s enough to get the adrenaline flowing and anticipation high for what the rest of the album will bring. Mission accomplished.

1. Silence Is Deafening

This one is an absolute Napalm classic, and for good reason: a classic memorable Greenway vocal hook, a good mix of grind and groove, and a feeling of general unhinged insanity give this song its magic. I mean, the first 10 seconds set things up so perfectly, then when the d-beat kicks in, there’s just no hope. There’s a reason this song gets stuck in my head at random, walking down the road, just trying to go about my life: it’s an incredible song and it’s a near-perfect summation of what makes Napalm Death great.