Napalm Death

support Salvage The Flesh + Brain Dead
author BL date 21/11/09 venue Joiners, Southampton, UK

Once in a while I'll find the time to attend a show I would normally not have gone to. But you know sometimes it's those spontaneous decisions that you remember the most, good or bad. I have not really heard much from the headliners Napalm Death other than a few of their MySpace songs from a while ago, as well as the infamous micro-song "You Suffer" so I guess I wasn't really sure what to expect. Having arranged to meet some friends (who arrived mostly drunk, and one of which was only attending thanks to a deal involving another going with him to Chase and Status so is now paying that other friend back) I arrived at the packed venue in time to see Salvage The Flesh midway through their set.

They played a fairly uninteresting style of death metal infused with grind - a few technical leads and lots of tremolo riffs while the vocalist/guitarist growled his way through numerous songs about people who have pissed him off (and by the looks of the things, there must have been a lot). While they were hardly terrible, they were also one of the most static bands I've ever seen. The frontman stood still playing and barking into the mic, the female guitarist stood there looking like she was having the time of her life if that meant standing perfectly still with no expression and just shredding away, and the bassist windmill headbanging from the start to the finish like an actual windmill was on the stage. The crowd were fairly supportive though and there were lots of cheers at the end of every song so I guess there must have been some who came to see them. I was indifferent though, they sounded alright but were just so dull to look at so I found myself waiting for the set to end having finished my beer early. I'm not going to give them a score for the reason that I didn't see the set from the start.

Brain Dead

If Salvage The Flesh were static then these guys were like statues, they stood almost perfectly still apart from playing their instruments and the odd head bobbing. This looked even less convincing once you hear their "in-character" vocalist/bassist, who was one of those vocalists that would not talk to the audience using a normal voice but rather growl (and not even that well) every word he'd say. It was just ridiculously silly given how un-frightening (and un-funny, unfortunately) their brand of horror/gore grind death metal actually was. It also didn't help that all their songs sounded practically identical (though I guess with this kind of grind I shouldn't be surprised), with no discernible character or melody, groove or actual riffing, and just ended up becoming a blurry mess of distortion, bass and blast beats. In fact the only mild amusement I got from their entire set was from hearing their plain stupid song names, and even they were pretty typical for the genre. Again a couple of people in the crowd seemed to enjoy it and gave applause and cheers but I don't think there would have been too many more impressed faces out there.

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Napalm Death

With a place like Joiners, where there is no section for photographers, if you're at the front you're going to be subject to a lot of crowd movement whether you like it or not - and I should have been more aware of what I was getting myself into by moving right to the front (thinking, Oh this is a great place to take some pictures). The crowd, previously standing like they were attending a funeral, exploded into utter violent chaos as Napalm Death kicked off proceedings with "Strong-Arm". Bodies flung themselves left, right and into me as I witnessed probably the most extreme transition in crowd participation ever. The entire floor was a huge mosh pit for most of the night, and rightly so, because the sheer energy from the music being pummeled into our faces non-stop by the band was as infectious as it was painful. And even despite there being just one guitarist, Mitch Harris, the sound was plentiful - unrelentingly heavy but always clear.

Napalm Death are about as seasoned as they come nowadays having been around since 1981 - hilariously brought to attention by my Napalm Death loving friend yelling "I wasn't even born!" when frontman Mark (aka "Barney") Greenway reminisced about the band's early beginnings (at least since the start of the current lineup). Let me tell you, these guys know how to maintain a stage presence as well as engage the audience (with so many years in the bag I was hardly surprised), taking time in between some of the songs to enlighten (and entertain) us with some meanings behind songs: politics, peace, discrimination, religion and how sitting on your ass doing nothing is important because that is the only way you learn to reflect on life. But one thing I found was that they're most importantly, genuine. There was no pretentiousness like the band before, trying to look metal or act all tough and brutal. It was just four guys on stage, cranking out some of the most furious, kickass and amusing live music I've heard while giving it still just as much energy as they probably would have when they started all those years ago.

I was not exactly familiar with the setlist like my friend who knew every song, but the band informed us that they covered songs spread across various albums, old and new, from their huge discography, so I got the impression that at least they were pleasing all the fans present. Unfortunately the only song I could really recognise was "On The Brink Of Extinction" as well as the hilariously short "You Suffer", where I think it caught half the crowd off-guard when it was played just out of the blue. By the time the set ended though I had little complaints because frankly you don't need to know the songs to enjoy them live. Which I suppose is even better when you consider this became one of those shows where you spend just as much time recounting how good the band was as you would how many injuries you had suffered.

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Setlist:

01. Strong-Arm

02. Unchallenged Hate

03. Suffer The Children

04. Silence is Deafening

05. Life And Limb

06. Diktat

07. When All Is Said And Done

08. It's A Man's World

09. From Enslavement To Obliteration

10. On The Brink Of Extinction

11. Scum

12. Life?

13. The Kill

14. Deceiver

15. You Suffer

16. Mass Appeal Madness

17. Nazi Punks Fuck Off

18. Persona Non Grata

19. Smear Campaign

20. Time Waits For No Slave

21. Siege Of Power

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