EVERY so often in heavy music comes a spectacularly, ear splittingly good bill. Lock Up, Power Trip, Brujeria and Napalm Death is one such bill.
Unfortunately, Lock Up started at the early time of 7PM, though this did allow each band to have a relatively lengthy stage time, did mean several punters, including this publication, missed the Napalm Death bassist, Shane Embury’s side project.
Next up was Power Trip, a Texan thrash band who step onto the stage full of excitement. Their eight track long latest album, Nightmare Logic, has been well received by many as one of the heavy albums of the year so far and the band step up intensity of songs like “Executioner’s Tax” even further live.
They fill out the small stage; Blake Ibanez on lead guitar stands centre; besides him, Riley Gale lets out vocals that fit in somewhere between early Metallica and a hardcore yelp. Nick Stewart’s rhythm guitar, Chris Whetzel’s bass and Chris Ulsh’s rapid-fire drumming lead the band through a series of death coated thrash which gets the audience headbanging and moshing after Gale asks: “are you too cool or just too old to circle pit?”
Next to emerge onto the stage was Brujeria, who are a band like none other. The Mexican death metal cum grindcore act are at once political and ridiculous; each member wears a bandana around their face, assuming the identity of fictional drug lords. Their act ends with a rendition of the Macarena, substituting the titular lyric for “Marijuana.” They brandish plastic swords on stage. The between song banter is almost entirely in Mexican, though the crowd react as though they understand every word. A woman in the front row proudly displays a Mexican flag.
Yet, when they start a “f**ck Donald Trump,” chant, it’s entirely believable, entirely serious. On top of all of that posturing, their tunes hold up as sterling examples of death metal. A band for over twenty years now, some of the tracks from their 2016 comeback album “Pocho Aztlan,” including “No Aceptan Imitaciones.” still stand up above their older material.
By 9:55, the crowd are ready for Napalm Death. When the intro track that opens their latest album, “Apex Predator – Easy Meat,” begins, it is greeted with rapturous applause and excited shouts. When vocalist Barney Greenway arrives, those audience cries double. Chants of “Bar-ney!” and “Na-pa-lm Death,” begin now and continue throughout the bands explosive set.
Napalm Death’s setlist is from throughout their career, from the title track and the infamous “You Suffer,” from debut LP “Scum,” which sound better than ever thanks to the sharp guitar tone employed by Mitch Harris, to the longer tracks from the later end of their career. These include the chaotically heavy “Stubborn Stains,” and the relatively melodic “Dear Slum Landlord…” both taken from 2015’s “Apex Predator,” along with deep cuts from eight of their other sixteen releases.
Their set is interspersed with political chat from Barney, including messages on refugees, GMOs, the American political landscape and several comments about the Tory rule of Great Britain. Between the lyrics of tracks like “Stunt Your Growth,” and live set mainstay Dead Kennedy’s cover “Nazi Punks F**k Off,” which gets a brilliant showing tonight, Napalm Death have long been known as a vital, political band, but in times of increasing populism and austerity, a fun, heavy, angry and intense night out is needed more than ever.