It’s not everyday you get to see one of your favorite bands in one of your favorite venues, especially a band as long lived and deservedly well respected as Napalm Death, in an intimate setting like Underground Arts. Add in noise punk legends The Melvins and celebrated Japanese electro-grind duo Melt Banana and well… yeah. Gonna be kinda hard to be subjective about this one.
Melt Banana led the charge, buzzsaw riffage provided by guitarist Ichirou Agata, joined by the delightfully deranged vocal stylings of electronic multi-instrumentalist Yasuko Onuki. Onuki wielded a handheld, light-up beatbox that looked like a cross between a game controller and a Simon as if it were battle axe and assaulted the audience with a motor mouthed high pitched punk rock sermon that the band’s ample following got up front and went absolutely insane for. Cool, catchy and crazy, and with a considerable history for newcomers to catch up on (they’ve been recording and touring steadily since 1994), the Melt Banana shaped hole in my heart that I didn’t even know was there, is now happily filled.
If there’s a name in the heavy music lexicon that needs absolutely no introduction, it’s The Melvins. This iteration of the band, a three piece with charter members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover joined by Red Kross/Off! Bassist Steve McDonald, gloriously oppressed the rapturous crowd with their signature impenetrable fortification of feedback and distortion, Osborne’s baritone bellow and Crover’s machine gun attack as vital and urgent as ever. Osborne is still the undisputed “king” of the ever relevant noise rock genre that he helped create over three decades ago.
“A stampede to rush forward yet I’m in retreat…” opens Napalm Death’s 2015 masterpiece “Apex Predator: Easy Meat
“ but as the UK grindcore gods took the stage no one was retreating, magnetically drawn to the commanding stage presence of legendary frontman Barney Greenway and the crystal clear live performance prowess of stalwarts Danny Herrera and Shane Embury, alongside new guitarist John Cooke. The band’s set cherry picked classics from their near 30 year legacy, peppered with standout tracks from “AP:EM” like “Smash A Single Digit” and “How The Years Condemn”. My biggest reaction came from “Breed To Breathe”, 1997’s “Inside The Torn Apart” having spent a lot of time in my discman at High School, that was until ND ripped into a savage cover of The Dead Kennedy‘s “Nazi Punk’s Fuck Off”, still extremely prescient in our current political climate.
As long as I’ve been into Napalm Death, I had never managed to catch them live. It’s extremely rewarding and comforting to have your high expectations for personal musical heroes not only met but wildly exceeded. I probably don’t need to tell you to go see Naplam Death and The Melvins, but seriously, go see Napalm Death and The Melvins.
Words and Photos by Kevin Hawkey