Donning their most gruesome/offensive shirts, patched up leather jackets and blackest pants, Napalm Death fans from around the country – even some from Australia – convened at the San Fran on Tuesday the 11th of September to witness one of the loudest, most brutal shows I think Wellington has even been host to. The San Fran, most often home to the young and hip was packed out with the largest (girth of some as well as numbers in the crowd) set of metalers I have ever seen in Wellington, and I think it’s safe to say, Napalm Death was ten Christmasses rolled into one for a good percentage of that crowd.
These three opening acts got the crowd all crazed and frenzied, starting with local metal band Dial, whom I think deserved a spot closer to Napalm – that progressive metal drum breakdown was epic – drawing a silence across the bar (bar that guy who repeatedly yelled “Napalm Death!”). I would have preferred it if I had missed half of second band Backyard Burial’s set instead of Dial’s, as Backyard Burial, though tight, played too long and most of their songs were only distinguishable by the weird names the front man introduced them as.
After only a short set-up time and with the crowd chanting their name – Napalm Death – the fucking fathers of Grindcore – hit the stage launching full throttle into their set. When I interviewed guitarist Mitch Harris a few weeks ago, he warned that they will probably be really tired and jet-lagged for the show, but will put in all their efforts anyway – and they sure didn’t fail to deliver. Singer Barney Greenway was like a ravenous pit-bull held back on a chain, with his demented running back and forth over the stage, droplets of sweat flying in every direction as he spat and roared in his guttural style his qualms about the state of the world, while guitarist Harris took the higher vocals.
Admittedly I found it hard to differentiate between tracks – the lyrics are yelled/barked/roared, and the usually short songs sort of merge into each other in an aggressive, ear bleedingly loud and brutal mix. I find you only really need a few adjectives to describe their music anyway – any combination of deafening, raw, distorted, fast, extreme, vigorous or brutal- with ‘fucking’ as the adverb is probably the best way to sum up anything that blasted though the speakers that night, with the sporadic echoes on Greenway’s vocal and Harris’s guitar adding a bit of difference and depth.
A fair few tracks off the new album, (which this tour was in promotion of) called Smear Campaign were thrashed out, and Greenway had a spiel about his stance towards religion, something along the lines of “It’s fucking stupid and I’ve had enough of it”, which was meet with some fervent cheers from the crowd. Between the new, less familiar tracks there were plenty of calls for old tracks, which Greenway assured would probably be played anyway if patience is practiced. They played ‘You Suffer’, the shortest single ever, as well as the highlight for me, ‘Scum’ from their first album Scum – which is noticeably way heavier than most of the new tracks, and in the encore their cover of the Dead Kennedy’s ‘Fuck off Nazi Punk.’
I’m pretty sure my ears have had it with me now and aren’t going to go back to the auditory range I once had, but the bragging rights of seeing Napalm Death for future years will be well worth the slippery slope to deafness this show would have sparked.