Sunday, February 15, 2015

Concert Review: Napalm Death / Voivod / Exhumed / Iron Reagan / Ringworm - "Of Space and Grind Tour" @ Reggie's Rock Club - 02/10/2015

Didn't get there in time....stupid traffic.

Iron Reagan:
These guys were a blast - not that kind of blast. I only knew of their reputation as being a bit of a hardcore/thrash throwback band consisting of a couple of members from Municipal Waste - and that was enough to  make me not interested in buying any of their albums, because I have this ridiculous notion that people who love that 80's thrash are stuck there - and wind up being ridiculously close minded about everything else, ummmm - hypocrite much? Their sound was great, and their riffs were catchy in all the right places (just like 80's thrash!), and when they sped it up and knocked out five tunes in under four minutes in the middle of their set I couldn't help but liken their more punk-rooted songs to 'Sick'-era Extortion, and that's really, really alright. They didn't take themselves too seriously, and seemed to be having a genuinely good time on stage. I'd be interested in checking out more of these blokes.

I own a couple of Exhumed albums but the phase of my life where I was actually listening to them was really short. It kind of happened as I was teetering on the edge there just before totally falling into the indulgence of Grindcore. I always dug their chaotic sound but the gore-theme was something I could just never relate to. I don't mind it, I'm not turned off by it - I mean, I sat through the uncut version of 'A Serbian Film' (I'm not even going to link that) and work with that kind of shit all the time. I just don't relate to it in real life, and that relation to something emotive in the music is what really makes the purge for me, and that's the same reason I never got into (prepare to gasp) Carcass. I guess I just missed my window with it. Exhumed's live set was a bit muffled in comparison to Iron Reagan, but like a snuff film - it worked for them. Pretty impressive how both the bassist and rhythm guitarist share lead vocals whilst canoodling all over the guitar neck like it was the finger olympics, there is no doubt that these guys are talented songwriters and performers. Halfway through their performance some dude came aping onto the stage in full-on blood spattered surgical scrubs wielding a chainsaw and dove into the crowd, loved seeing that - I always dig when a band like this shows that they ain't takin' the whole thing too seriously and are just having fun with it, not to mention that smell of exhaust and gasoline that came lofting in over the audience only added to the ambiance.  I can't take anything away from Exhumed here, as their performance seemed pretty flawless.  I'm sure if my neck beard was in full bloom and I had all of the Guinea Pig movies at home on VHS I would have really enjoyed them a bit more, I keed, I keed.

I admit... Initially this was another band that was just in the way of seeing Napalm Death, shame on me. I know about Voivod, but I know very little. There are two bands that I've kind of always wanted to really sink my teeth into, that I think if I gave it a real chance and dove in I'd really get a lot out of it - I've just been intimidated by their discographies, and that's Neurosis and Voivod...It's like, where do you begin? The beginning? The best? How do you even know? Voivod was wickedly impressive live. I'm very rarely won over by a band I've never heard first on a record like I was with Voivod. Their sound was hard and clear, and their stage presence was a lot of fun. Proggy in spots, thrashy in others, other-worldly all around - I'm sure to all the salty Voivod dogs out there I've just described every album they've ever done. The band performed their new single 'We Are Connected', and for me it was one of the more memorable songs of their set. This performance definitely gave me the kick in the arse I needed to stop making excuses and start digging in.

Napalm Death:
I'm a tad biased here because I think Napalm Death fuckin' kill, but guess what? Napalm Death fuckin' killed. ND took the stage beneath 'Utopia Banished''s sample-driven 'Vision Conquest' and in good form opened with 'I Abstain'.  They then jumped forward without missing a beat romping into 'Time Waits For No Slave's 'Brink Of Extinction' and 'Smash A Single Digit', the "single" off of their latest release 'Apex Predator: Easy Meat'. They did a great job of covering the gamut here jumping all over their discography; all the while still fronting tracks from their latest release, which seemingly had the least crowd response - indicating either people just hadn't gotten around to digesting the new album yet, or the majority of the crowd was rooted in the earlier phase of their writing. Judging by the variety of age in the audience I'd wager it was a combination of both. I'd say there was about a 50 - 60% turnover in the crowd after Voivod left the stage, altering the ratio of guys to girls from 20:1 to 450:1.
Unfortunately guitarist Mitch Harris was not on tour with the band this time around due to an illness in the family - but fortunately ex-Brutal Truth axeman Erik Burke was taking his place and not missing a beat (and there were a lot of them - grind humor). The set list, however, was noticeably steered away from the songs that feature heavily on Harris' trademark shriek. Totally understandable, but I would have loved to hear the likes of 'Sink Fast, Let Go', 'Beyond The Pale', 'The Silence Is Deafening' and etc. Frontman Barney Greenway took a few of the high notes here and there, and sounded as ferocious if not more so than he does on the wax everywhere else. Which left me pondering how the frack that brummie doesn't just eviscerate his voice box every night. While bassist Shane Embury's hand became a blur over the strings, Greenway jogged and spastically jerked all over the stage, keeping the stagehand busy untying the knots in his mic wire on more than one occasion - to which the English gentlemen gratefully apologized for. How old are these guys again? And what a pleasure it was to hear tracks like 'Scum', 'M.A.D.', and 'Suffer The Children' with the modern day punch of sound vibrating behind your ribs. Even 'A Plague Rages' packed more of a bunch than it's bass-grinding original. The band ended with 'Adversarial/Copulating Snakes', the closing track on the new album and I couldn't have been happier with that. What a ridiculously powerful riff to wrap things up with. Good show, good sound, good songs - I was impressed.
On a personal note, I'd love to see Burke maybe added to the line-up as a second guitarist; not that I think they need it - because the anvil is destroying with the weight it's at just fine. But given the fact that ND's line up is already completely different than the one that started the band, and they've gone through so many changes throughout the years before really riding steady with where they're at - I'd dig it if Napalm Death became a sort-of musical force, or entity more than a mortal band with an expiration date. I'd love to see the torch slowly handed off over the next twenty years or so to another group of musicians who would be capable of carrying on the carnage and evolutionizing the sound.  I know I'm probably the only one out there that feels this way, and nobody wants to have somebody else either take credit for, or tarnish the legacy that they built - but after damn near thirty years and fifteen albums - plus EP's, live records, and cover discs - Napalm Death, at least in my eyes, has become a symbol for the extreme, and I'd love to see them become immortal (not Immortal). They've already got the record for the shortest song, how about they out-live the Stones.... Just throwing that out there. Here was the headlining set list:

Vision Conquest
I Abstain
Brink Of Extinction
Smash A Single Digit
Walls Of Confinement
The Kill
Nazi Punks Fuck Off
Everyday Pox
How The Years Condemn
Timeless Flogging
Suffer The Children
Plague Rages
Unchallenged Hate
You Suffer
Adversarial / Copulating Snakes