This was an easily identifiable attempt at commercializing their sound with the emphasis for accessibility glaringly transparent. Had these songs actually cracked the Billboard charts and made an appearance on national radio, television, etc, I would have been happy for the band, regardless of my preference for the band's older material. Unfortunately, this was far from the case and the album itself is just far too soft and poppy sounding (regardless of Barney's roaring croak) to be consistent with persistent spins on ye ol' turntable.
If one thing can be said about ND's brazen attempt at "fitting in", it's that the band certainly proved that they had indeed possessed a knack for writing a catchy tune (although, one could argue that 'Harmony Corruption' had no shortage of snappy odes, albeit a bit more abrasive and maniacally paced than the material found here). I would say that, in terms of straightforwardness and accessibility, ND were closer to the mark than Carcass were on their final outing.
Ultimately, this album comes across as a brief hiccup in ND's career until the infinitely superior 'Inside the Torn Apart' came around the following year. Interestingly, ND would again delve into a period of lackluster songwriting and laughable attempts at sounding aggressive with 1998's 'Words From the Exit Wound'. One could surmise that 97's 'ITTA' should have been the album to succeed 'Fear, Emptiness, Despair', while 'Diatribes' and 'WFTEW' are a bit more properly aligned with one another. Whatever the case, while there have undoubtedly been far worse attempts at selling out, 'Diatribes' is an album that I certainly could have done without and seldom have the desire to revisit.