Birmingham invented Heavy Metal.
That, at least, is what we are led to believe by most American rock bands touring the second city anyway.
I should know as I seem to spend a fair amount of time fifty miles from my home watching our friends from across the pond. To be fair though, when the likes of Kiss are waxing lyrical about Brum they are referring to legend Ozzy Osborne and Black Sabbath and not my particular obsession ‘Napalm Death’. Countless times I have travelled to see the loudest outfit in the world. Thirty years of extreme noise and this Brummie institution are as relevant now as when John Peel unleashed them on to unprepared ears back in the day when late night radio was worth listening to and when he had the nerve to put them ‘In Session’ on his show all those years ago. A show at the time which though brilliant was always more attuned to the likes of The Smiths and Sarah records bands.
To hear the guttural roar of Napalm Death after the jangly stylings of say The June Brides or The Field Mice was quite a shock to the system.
Yeah, so ok, that thirty years of Napalm has had a shed load of line up changes from the earliest version of the band, but the Napalm I love now has been pretty much the incarnation that has recorded fifteen lps and destroyed sound systems the world over ever since Peel gave us the kick up the backside to start listening to Grindcore and its ilk. Anyway this article is not about line up changes and what LP was recorded when or who sang on what, you can check Wikki out for that (subject to them having their facts straight I might add!). What I am writing about here is my love for a band that has been pretty much ploughing the same furrow since the beginning. There is no ‘grey area’ with Napalm Death, no middle ground, you either enjoy your ear drums being assaulted like me or you don’t. I am lucky to have a group of friends that love going to gigs but it’s usually just me and the same long suffering pal that travel to see Napalm. We will go and watch them even if they are only the support act to a bigger more accessible band that we couldn’t give a fig about, and by looking at the crowd that show up regularly there are quite a few others that do just that. Napalm Death never attracts a massive crowd. Even though they perform in front of thousands on festival stages, when you hand over your hard earned cash at a club, it’s always a fair size audience with plenty of familiar faces where ever they may be playing.
The venom that Napalm Death create when covering the Dead Kennedys track ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ actually makes you think that the song was actually theirs in the first place.
A lot of bands maintain they are ‘all about the fans’ and to tell you the truth a lot are, but you don’t often see the band sitting in the bar before the gig just having a drink, charging phones up with the pubs Leccy, chatting and being chuffed that you made the effort to turn up to the gig and generally being part of the venue’s atmosphere which happened when I saw them play at The Bell in Derby. The lead singer Barney is often around the merch stand giving people the nod and Shane is spotted at a big proportion of the gigs we go too just checking out bands like any normal punter. For a band that probably still plays some of the most extreme and angry music in the world it’s nice to see what a decent bunch of lads they are.
A live Napalm Death performance is something else; Barney is an eloquent political front man. The band sings about issues that concern them and issues they embrace. Staunch anti-religion and anti fascists, the band can incite a crowd to a fever pitch. Not many bands can perform a cover version and actually make the track better than the original. The venom that Napalm Death create when covering the Dead Kennedys track ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ actually makes you think that the song was actually theirs in the first place. The dance floor of the gig looking like a fight is the epitome of camaraderie amongst the fans and gig goers. Anyone who falls down gets picked up from amongst the frantic doc martins, smiling! It’s akin to a mob with the same ideals creating a unity to a bloody racket! Barney is not all about being serious though as being the record holders for the worlds shortest song ‘You Suffer’ he likes a laugh and interaction with the crowd as much as anyone.
Grindcore as a genre is all about the energy and the noise. As I ‘vet said before you either like it or loathe it. The genre must have something though, thirty years and it’s still going strong, albeit to the select few. Bands like Extreme Noise Terror (remember them performing with the KLF at The Brits all those years ago?), Pig Destroyer and Bolt thrower still keep the punters happy, and though a certain section of the crowd may be aging somewhat like myself, there is still plenty of ‘kids’ coming to see Napalm from reputation alone and listening to guys like me going on about them all the time! Anyway it’s only a week or so till Damnation Festival and though Napalm isn’t there, the mighty Extreme Noise Terror are and that’s a pretty good substitute!
Long live noise!
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