What better way to spend a Sunday night in Auckland than with Napalm Death? The 13th Floor’s Simon Coffey thought so. Here is his report.
A long queue snaked outside the venue as I ventured out of the Western Suburbs on a Sunday night. Black draped legions, young and middle-aged, with mohawks, band name adorned coverings and studded jackets were out en masse, boding a night of moshing and blackened rapture.
Forty years plus and the originator of grindcore (in all its forms) Napalm Death are still going hard. Whilst the original members haven’t been at the helm since the late1980’s, several of the ‘new’ members are into their 3rd and 4th decade, even the ‘kid’ in the band has been around for over a decade. The lineup for tonight’s show remains Shane Embury (bass/vocals since 1987), Mark “Barney” Greenway (vocals since 1989) John Cooke (Guitar since 2014) and Danny Herrera (drums (since 1991)
Talking about years, it was back in 2017 when Napalm Death played one of the last shows to be held at the beloved Kings Arms Tavern, and like a fine whisky, they delivered with power and professionalism. Having released an album in 2020, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism (largely written by Embury) and a EP Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw Of Throes in 2022, they had new material to share with us, but I was secretly I’m hoping they would still have room to fit in their magnificent version of Nazi Punks (Fuck Off)
From Tamaki Makaurau three-piece Knifed are bunch of fiends that have been in multiple other bands including Arsehuffer (which may or may not be true), who have released a 7” with almost eleven minutes of riffs that address the challenges existential anxieties associated with Aotearoa’s remoteness (their words not mine) The band are AY (Guitars) BM (Vocals) and MH (Drums) and for almost twenty minutes they intensively and provocatively assaulted the audience with a meld of grindcore, punk and metal who responded in kind in the moshpit. Check their noise out on bandcamp.
Also recent visitors to Aotearoa, here in 2020 opening for Obituary, these Singaporian noise proponents released a killer and much heralded album HISS in 2022, but also in that year saw longtime vocalist Arif leave the band, with guitarist Rasyid (since 2007) and drummer Vijesh (since 2015) left holding the reins since.
Starting off strong with four songs from Hiss, Wormrot set the show with a focus on their new(ish) album. A three piece tonight, the two joined by a guest vocalist Gabriel from Argentina. While HISS dominates, their 2016 classic Voices also feature heavily. Two and three minute bullets spray the audience, the guitarist’s Portishead t-shirt juxtaposes the sound tonight, more finesse than subtlety. To the crowds delight Wormrot do touch on their two previous albums Dirge (2011) and Abuse (2007), but only with a single serving from each. Briefly they sound like classic Metallica (early albums) with less harmonic vocals obviously, that dynamics is a real feature tonight in their new material, dynamics imbued with impact. AY and MH’s tight playing energises the intense mosh pit while, Gabriel does his best to manage it from the stage, (keep your friends safe)
The boys from Birmingham (Britain not Alabama) are soon astride the stage, Mark “Barney” Greenway is adorned in a Stations Of The Crass t-shirt, perhaps provoked by the (re)issue/(re)recording(?) of Crucifixion of Possessions, a song by the pre1987 version of Napalm Death, as a digital single, originally released on the Crass label compilation Bullshit Detector Three in 1984. It is a subtle way of showing the roots and the origins of the band’s politics.
Napalm Death kicked off with the lead song from last year’s release Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw Of Throes, Narcissus, and followed through with two others, already the sound was raw, incredible and the moshpit explosive. Shane Embury was a machine on bass and vocals, the night’s performance was already threatening epic proportions. While Barney hurtled himself around the stage, and prowled like a lion, when not on the growl. Unrelenting grindcore bliss emanated from Shane, Danny and John, as on the floor the masses hurled themselves in a frenzy. Barney’s working class English accent booms across the room as he talks about conflict, conflict over refugees being deemed illegal, he is impassioned about the injustices they face, and they launch into Contagion from the 2020’s Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.
The pace slowed down on another new composition Invigorating Clutch of Defeatism, as Barney pronounces, ‘it is still as noisey as fuck’ I get a vibe of classic Rudimentry Peni coming through. Scum from the album of the same name, their first proper album, causes the moshpit to erupt, beers go flying, BUT people are kind and are helping each other, the crowd surfing starts about now. Amoral is introduced as Napalm Death’s‘ beautiful song, another new one, the harmonics are rich, almost tuneful.
1990’s Suffer The Children (Harmony Corruption) comes as Barney transposes this anti right-christian morality series of stanza from treatment of Women, to the current fascist response to the trans-community, the song is as relevant as it was 30 years ago. The guy in front of me has been hollering for Bad Brains all night, and now the cat is out of the bag, Barney introduced a cover by a band from Washington DC, a little bit reggae called Bad Brains as they launch into Don’t Need it – (Resentment Is Always Seismic – A Final Throw Of Throes EP 2022) reinterpreted, it sate’s the crowd need. Stage invasions starts about now.
Six more songs, several from Scum, others from yet unvisited albums, and Smash A Single Digit from 2015’s Apex Predator – Easy Meat take us up to the ‘other cover’ for the night. With an unnecessary introduction, Napalm Death crashed into Nazi Punks (Fuck Off), and the moshpit reverted to a hardcore arena.
Throughout the show, all four members were on point, energised, and clinically precise, Barney once described Napalm Death as not flat-out-metal, by the last song, it is clear, they are the creators of their own sound, a melting pot of noise, the originators. As the last riffs of their last song Siege of Power (Scum 1987) receed, the audience shared their love, and cheered even louder when Napalm Death promised to return.
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