Live review by Kyle Harcott; live photography by Ted Reckoning
Twelve years. 1999. That was the last time Napalm Death graced our fair Pacific shore – and by the band’s own account, it was a further eight years prior to that since they’d done a Canadian tour proper. So when Napalm’s cross-Canada tour was announced late last June, you can bet many a metalhead across the country (including yours truly) were pretty well fucking chuffed. Of course, being on the left coast, I had to hear all about the tour from friends to the East as it wended its way across the country. The day couldn’t get here soon enough. Vancouver got its turn on the last night of the tour – and the local metal community came out in droves, flying the flag high for Napalm, and packing out the Rickshaw in full force (no mean feat for a Thursday). I don’t think I’ve ever seen the place that packed, wall-to-wall with folks salaciously anticipating a night of glorious grind.
Napalm Death didn’t bring any other bands out on the road with them, so each city had their own opening acts, and Vancouver had three. By the time I got to the Rickshaw, I was too late for Gross Misconduct’s set, and Zuckuss were already a couple songs into their putrid, vomit-gargled, Star-Wars-themed pornogrind. Now, as hilarious as titles like ‘Fistgunter’ and ‘Titfucked by Tauntaun’ are, much of Zuckuss’ quease-grind, while technically proficient, was interchangeable – a lot of over-too-quick grind riffs, leaving them sounding like short bursts of a particularly virulent case of lower-intestinal food poisoning. The last opener, The Golers, impressed the shit out of me with their adept blend of classic-sounding (and hooky!) speed’n’thrash, shaken up with a dash of modern grind for good measure. Clearly a local favorite, the band fed off the enthusiasm of their audience and vice-versa.
But, ultimately, the night belonged to Napalm, who finally took to the stage, tearing into ‘Downbeat Clique’, and the entire. Rickshaw. Went. Off. Floor packed, giganto pit, everyone front and center for grindcore royalty come all the way from Birmingham. And plumb the vaults they did, with tracks running the gamut from 1987’s Scum all the way through to 2009’s Time Waits For No Slave. They even previewed the much-anticipated Utilitarian for us, with new song ‘Quarantined’. From my vantage point, there was only one complaint – the Rickshaw recently revamped their sound-system, and this night the mix was particularly kick-drum- and vocal-heavy, leaving a lot to be desired in the way of guitar. But no matter, I was still getting my shit sorted by The Grind Four, so minor sound issues soon took a back seat to soaking up Napalm’s legendary back-catalog.
All four members of Napalm kept the crowd rapt in hand, as they hammered away at favorites old and new. Barney Greenway’s signature bark, the stuff of legend, seems to only get stronger year after year. Meanwhile Mitch Harris’ banshee shrieks hit the eardrum like puncture trauma and perfectly complement Greenway’s vicious roar. Harris’ ripsaw guitar and Shane Embury’s gurgle bass, unfortunately mostly buried in the mix, still sandblasted across classics like ‘Lucid Fairytale’ and ‘Control’. And Danny Herrera is a blastbeat machine, as vicious and pummeling as ever, providing the songs with their necessary grind, violence and urgency. Greenway kept the crowd engaged, with passionate between-song raps on keeping the peace and golden-rule humanity, and spoke a few words in tribute to Siege’s recently-fallen Kevin Mahoney, prior Napalm blazing through the aforementioned band’s ‘Conform’ (one of three covers they did this night).
Vital and blistering on stage, and with a new album scheduled for February release, Napalm Death laid waste the Rickshaw and Vancouver’s grind-starved crowd. Continuing their reign as revered leaders of the grindcore scene, here’s hoping a Utilitarian tour brings Napalm Death back our way a whole lot sooner.
NAPALM DEATH setlist:
Continuing War on Stupidity
Next On The List
When All Is Said and Done
Life and Limb
Lowlife (Cryptic Slaughter cover)
The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code
On the Brink of Extinction
Conform (Siege cover)
Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Dead Kennedys cover)
Suffer the Children
Silence Is Deafening