Sunday, April 17, 2016

Concert Review: Napalm Death w/ Melvins @ Underground Arts - Philadelphia, PA 04/13/16

Close your eyes.

Imagine being herded into a basement.  Dark and hot.  Bodies are pressed against you.  There is tension in the air.  An underlying energy is waiting to explode.  It hangs like a cloud.  And then it hits.  You know it's coming and it still hits you in the chest.  It's the sound.  It's so loud it hurts your brain.  It makes dizzy.  You're body moves on it's own.  It convulses.  It shakes.  The sound is so deep your head feels like it is going to explode.  It's fast.  It's intense.  It comes in bursts like a machine gun.  Just when you feel like you will never breath again it stops.  Then starts again.

Now imagine liking this.

That is a Napalm Death and Melvins show.

The pairing makes sense.  Both bands are groundbreaking and influential. Pushing the envelope defines both bands.  They make you think outside of the box.  They push your limits.  They make you feel.  I would be disappointed if this show had not been a sell out.

The Savage Imperial Death March Tour features three epic bands in a small venue setting.  The opening band was the duo Melt Banana from Japan.  They are the love child of Napalm Death and the Melvins blending Grindcore with Experimental. For good measure they throw in electronica and sampling. This was my first experience with Melt Banana, even though they have ten albums spanning back to 1992.  I was so not ready for their assault. Their attack was fierce.  The crowd responded in unison and it was already on.  It was interesting to heat Grindcore mixed with Super Mario samples.  The place was already packed and the moshing was in full force.  If this was how the night was starting off it was going to be one hell of a ride.

During Melted Banana's set Melvin's bassist Steven McDonald reveled in walking through the crowd unnoticed with his skateboard adorned with OFF! stickers.  Melt Banana finished their spastic set to crowd cheers and everyone withdrew back from the stage for a breather.

Next up were the Melvins.  Directly influenced themselves from the obvious, Black Sabbath, to the not so obvious, Black Flag, The Melvins influenced grunge, rock, and today's metal scene without receiving the accolades of their combined pupils.  We all know the effect they had on Nirvana but it goes deeper than that.  Soundgarden, Tool, and yes, Alice in Chains.  Listen to Alice in Chains Facelift, then listen to the Melvins Gluey Porch Treatments, and then go back and listen to Dirt.  It doesn't stop there. As their sound changed over their 25+ years so did a new generation in its wake. You can hear their influences through multiple genres of metal.  Mastodon, Baroness, Boris, High on Fire, and Pantera. Fuck, the Melvins were Pantera before fucking Pantera was Pantera.  Clutch's best work, like Blast Tyrant, could be album two of Stoner Witch.  The list goes on.  Today Buzz Osbourne still does what he feels best.  He embraces it like an artist with a canvas, and serves it in unapologetic fashion.  As Buzz has said, ""Yeah, but... is the mating call of the asshole".  You don't always understand the artists intentions but you sure as fuck appreciate it.

The Melvins came our roaring with "Eyes Flys" and then right into a cover of Kiss's "Deuce". Steven McDonald was wearing black t-shit with the word "BASS" in sliver sequence Kiss stlyle.  Dale Crover was wearing one that said "DRUMS".  The real high point for me was when they kicked into "Queen".

During their epic set the band payed homage with multiple covers throughout the night.  There was a nod to Steven McDonald's Redd Kross with "Frosted Flakes", Green River's "Leech", Malfunkshun's "With Yo' Heart, Not Yo' Hands", and "The Bloated Pope" that they recorded with Lustmord.

They played for over an hour.  If you have never experienced a live Melvins performance you are missing a complete work of art.  The groove they set blurs the lines of traditional songs.  The songs meld from one to another seamlessly creating one sonic landscape.  This lineup was tight.  With each member taking vocals.  The end of the set slowly built momentum.  The mosh pit erupted during "Revolve" and transitioned right into an Alice Cooper medley of "Second Coming" and "Halo of Flies".  As the band bid farewell their new version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" played in the background. 

The stage crew worked furiously to set up the stage for Napalm Death almost as to not lose the momentum.  The Melvins had definitely set the stage.  It would not be an easy act to follow.

Napalm Death put Grindcore on the map.  They took speed to a new level and have the World Record for Shortest Song. 16 albums and 30 years later they continue to evolve.  It's not all about speed and down tuning.  It's technical.  In some ways it's progressive.  They continue to be innovators in a genre of clones. Their topics are political and about non conformity.  Barney would even mention during the show there is an old British saying, "Know your place".  He reminded everyone "Your place is where you want it to be".  That is the message of Napalm Death.

Age didn't take anything away from this band.  The energy was palpable.  They came out with the title track and "Easy Meat" from their newest release "Apex Predator" and then right into 2005's "Silence is Deafening".

The band went back and forth from new to old.  They went from the new "Dear Slum Landlord..." to 1987's "Scum" which sparked a wave of body surfing.  It amazes me that after 25 years of screaming that 'Barney' Greenway still has a voice.  He was interactive with the crowd talking about the songs and joking that their cover of Siege's "Conform" was actually a Slipknot song.

After an hour of playing they cranked their blast beats up a notch and hit their 1.316 second masterpiece "You Suffer" and then a cover of The Dead Kennedy's "Nazi Punks Fuck Off".  The crowd was spent by the time they ended the show with "Adversarial/Copulating Snakes".

This show was the best of both worlds.  Two bands fully capable of carrying a crowd this size sharing the stage.  Both having stood the test of time.  The crowd had plenty of original fans but there were young ones too.  That is their future.  That is our future.  There needs to be a new generation to carry the torch.  Both in the crowd and on the stage.  Here is to the next phase of the revolution.

See you when the needle drops!


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