Electric Ballroom Could Just About Stand The Wrath of Napalm Death
16th May 2017, 09:56
Posted by Tristan

Known for being one of the most sonically destructive forces in Metal, Napalm Death are among the fiercest of the elite. Originators of Grind, their melting pot of Punk sensibility, relentless Power Violence and political outrage have been components that even the finest acts will never truly echo to the magnitude of Napalm Death. Despite it being two years since their eighteenth studio release Apex Predator – Easy Meat, its only now that we are seeing the Birmingham bunch dominate on their own headline tour. With the work ethic of the most tenacious of work horses, pushing fifty, the band are admirable for their commitment to their fans, none more so than Shane Embury, a man who is not only doing one, not two but three performances every night on the bill! Hard to know when to go for a break with a bill as stacked is this the Electric Ballroom was in for more than just a treat.

Kicking things off in the Embury-athon were the Grind behemoths Lock Up, fronted by newly appointed Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth fame, the band knew exactly where to put which foot and how. Despite having only released three albums the band cherry picked excellent songs. Think their criminally early start time might have hindered the band, fans of tonight’s headliners were well aware of the early treat performing and saw a very busy Ballroom sink their teeth into Lock Up.


Having only just released their second full length Nightmare Logic the amount of buzz around the Texas outfit, Power Trip is very well placed. Met with cries of “Power Trip! Power Trip!” the front row are clearly in the know. Arriving on stage, their get up similar to their material, guitarist Blake Ibanez (a fitting name)  sporting a cut off Ramones t shirt, singer Riley Gale a Dismember top and best of all drummer come eighties cop Chris Ulsh with sunglasses on behind the kit. However from the moment that the distortion is kicked into gear, the band have the crowd in the palm of their hand. Not pausing for a breath the group blast their way from new album opener “Soul Sacrifice” straight into “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of The Axe)” met with uproarious approval. The secret to Power Trip’s winning Thrash formula is just this, whether you’ve heard their material before or never even heard of their name by the end of two songs everyone in Camden’s Ballroom was head banging, circle pitting and most importantly thrashing like a maniac.


Channelling this untameable venom, Power Trip echo the similar sensibility that a fledgling Napalm Death shared in their infancy. With frontman Gale getting up close and personal with the front row more than just once; it’s this sense of immediacy that will get the band to places others simply can’t. This is without mentioning the bands understanding of playing as a band. Easily one of the most tight outfits around at the moment, despite some of riff’s simplicity their execution is masterful. Moving sadly into the final sections of their set, you can bet that we’ll be seeing a lot more of these Texans who, if they continue on their fantastic streak could well be headlining a venue like this in the very near future.


As the eighties crossover pounding ceases and the bar is once more packed and the smoking area overpopulated, we await the second act in our Embury-athon, Brujeria. Going south of the border, following on from the Texans will be no mean feat. Witnessing the destruction that was brought forward when the gringos last appeared at Tufnell Park’s The Dome, you would have expected them to bring that same urgency, same energy the same fuego with them. Tonight however wasn’t quite like that. For a start there’s no sign of Jeff Walker, relegating Hongo (Shane Embury) to bass guitar. For those who might not be familiar with Brujeria, think if Slipknot were the cartel.


Releasing Pocho Aztlan last year, the band unveiled their first work in years with the new record. Despite their incredibly long time as a band, owing to the supergroup style make up and the members’ relevant well worked projects it’s nigh on impossible for the band to get material together often. Debuting “Satongo” among others, this is potentially the only track the band play from their new release. However bringing out the Matando Gueros material sees some of the most ferocious pit action happen. Of course the addition of new track “Viva PrĂ©sidente Trump” delivers the impact warranted with the crowd championing Brujo’s cries of “fuck you Donald Trump!“. Beginning with the rallying of “Brujerizmo” it’s tough to follow the ramblin’ and make it out to be a semblance of a sentence. With the pushed delivery, coupled with the bad sound tonight Brujeria are just not the jefe’s of the night sadly.


As the dust settles from the Mexican onslaught that was Brujeria, at last the main act is getting ready to rumble. Forgoing the showy backdrop, instead Napalm Death embody their bare bones approach with a simple black banner adorned with the bands name either side. As Danny Herrera, John Cooke and for the third and final time Shane Embury come out to the clanging of radiators, landfill and spanners, its the critical mass that is Barney Greenway that truly brings an element of imminent explosion to the stage. Arriving modestly dressed in simple white t-shirt the man begins his soliloquy of “Evolved As One” which despite it being written twenty odd years ago, its message is still pertinent, harnessing every ounce of sweat in the room before exploding into “Its a M.A.N.S World“. The fuse is lit. From then on quite literally anything goes, bodies piling over the barrier from the likes of “The Wolf I Feed” followed by the unrelenting “Smash A Single Digit


Thirty years on the band have well and truly mastered the art of the extreme, with drummer Danny Herrera never missing a beat making the likes of steamroller “The Code Is Red…Long Live The Code” or the one second wonder “You Suffer” which has a schoolboy Barney teasing the crowd to “pay attention!“. All joking aside the message that Napalm Death have always promoted remains just as prominent in the modern day. After a poignant yet never preachy speech the slight slack of “Dear Slum Landlord…” gives our pitting fans a real needed breather. Short lived however with the reappearance of Apex Predator material of “How The Years Condemn“, whose highlight had to be “Stubborn Stains” whose calamitous footprints are felt throughout the Ballroom tonight.


Shunted into the final section of the show the band bring out the big guns. Eloquently relating their release twenty six years ago, its subject matter, sadly still relevant, the volatile smack of “Suffer The Children” off the eponymous Harmony Corruption showcases Napalm Death‘s absolutely unassailable power. Followed by the now classic Dead Kennedy’s cover that has almost become their own of “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” before a gracious exit to the suite of “Persona Non Grata” followed by “Smear Campaign“. Beginning with the dignified entrance, upon finishing the band have entirely broken down the walls of what could be seen as extreme, once again. Resorting to noise as their set is wound up, the lights go up and sweaty, bloodied revellers begin their trudges to the front door. Napalm Death have once again and always will remain the absolute pinnacle of what Extreme Music will stand for, proving that though they might have been around since 1981, their message and delivery are now, quite possibly more devastating than they have ever been.