Napalm Death are without doubt Lord and Master of the Birmingham extreme metal scene. Thirty six years on from their foundation they are still going from strength to strength, album after album produces pure grindcore delight and their fan base just keeps growing.
Tonight is a grand home coming for the band, playing the ornate bigger room at the O2 Institute in the centre of the city. By far the biggest venue on their UK tour, the local fans flocking in their droves to celebrate their boys done good. To add to the spectacle of the evening bassist Shane Embury is on triple duty duty tonight. With two of his other bands, Lock Up and Brujeria, also on the bill. I don't know how the man has the energy to do it!
Opening proceedings are Lock Up, featuring not only Embury, but Nick Barker (of Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth), Anton Reisenegger (Pentagram) and Kevin Sharp (Venomus Concept). The gut wrenching vocals of Georgian Sharp define the bands sound, Barkers trademark drum track rips the bowels from you with sweet perfection. Despite the early start and the room not yet being full circle pits soon to form, as violent in the audience as the sound from the stage.
Second up are Texas thrashers Power Trip, the only band of the evening not to feature Shane. A more traditional thrash metal outfit blended hints of death, not too far distant from early Slayer. Still with youthful exuberance the five piece command the stage, solos that would make Dave Mustaine proud and an overall feel that puts them in the mix with the big names of the genre.
The Mexican banditos Brujeria are a different experience all together. The drug baron's formed the band back in the late 80’s but always keep their faces hidden to avoid being recognised by the FBI… or so the story goes. Dual vocalists Juan Brujo and Fantasma take centre stage, joking in Spanish between songs; we all laugh along though I’m fairly sure none of us in the room have a clue what they are saying. Songs from the latest album are mixed in with the new, throbbing angry bass and drums, screeching fast guitars and machete wielding vocalists all the way. However the older material is the highlight of the set for me; Brujerizmo and Anti-Castro are brutal grind with a Mexican twist and to finish off we have their own take on that classic; The Macarena. Make of that what you will, but they are sure to be the highlight of Bloodstock when they return to the UK to play the festival over the summer.
To round out this evening of extreme in the home town of heavy metal; Napalm Death take to the stage for a hour or so of ear blistering pleasure. The four piece need no introduction to the local fans; indeed they are greeting as returning heroes. Embury returning to the stage for the third time this evening, straps on his bass and acknowledges his fans.
You know exactly what you're going to get with Napalm Death, and quickly a big circle pit forms in the crowd as the band open up with Evolved As One. Punk ethics mixed with very extreme heavy stylings gives you an idea of the sound they are producing. Short sharp songs, politically motivated at times and to the point lyrically. Front man Barney does not so much command the stage but destroy it like a Tazmanian devil, bouncing from side to side, front to back. Between songs he addresses us eloquently, showing sophisticating thinking but with that distinctive Brummie twang.
You Suffer, famous for being the shortest recorded song in history makes its traditional mid set appearance, much to the crowds pleasure, followed by From Enslavement to Obliteration quite possibly the bands quintessential classic. The cover of the Dead Kennedy's Nazi Punks Fuck Off gets the frenzied crowd to kick it up a gear, good friendly violent fun at its best in the pit. The set rounded out with Persona Non Grata and Smear Campaign.
Not everyone is a fan of Napalm Death, they may be something of an acquired taste, but here in their homeland they are loved and tonight we were treated to a wonderful battering of the senses. They can't some back soon enough!