I have a keen fascination with alternative music subcultures, especially the ones on the more extreme side, and while a lot of the music isn’t what I would listen to every day, I can appreciate its place in the world and how it informs and shapes not only musical styles but ideologies, trends and the community of followers. Grindcore is one such subgenre that doesn’t personally rock my boat, but it has a long history and a keen global following, so it stands as a prominent fixture in the alternative music landscape. I knew what I was signing up for in going to see Napalm Death at Lion Arts on Thursday night- a full on and possibly overwhelming assault on the senses; but seeing as they have been coined as the forefathers of that scene and going for some 40 years, I obviously needed to witness a live show. I’ll be honest, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but the entire night, featuring Singapore based Grindcore outfit Wormrot and local two-piece Meth Leppard was an absolute ride. Like many of these extreme subgenres, especially in the vein of punk and metal, the music needs to be experienced rather than just listened to, and the live experience is where the connection happens, in a room of people there for the same purpose, just being in the moment.
The venue was packed with some interesting characters all there to lose themselves in the absolute chaos and noise. Meth Leppard warmed everyone up with their short thunderous and ominous tracks blending a strong mix of blackened grind and death growls and filling the room with noise from just a guitar and drums. Arguably, the most notorious element of Grindcore music is in the drumming and it takes an athlete to produce those consistent double kicks and blast beats (fun fact, Napalm Death apparently coined the term blast beat) The stage was crammed with three drum kits at the start, so you can take a guess at just how seriously these musicians take their drums. If drumming is your thing, these gigs are worth watching just to appreciate the sheer skill involved.
Wormrot’s set was no exception, drummer Vijesh Ghariwala put on a captivating performance, arms flailing as if in constant vibration as his quick movements blurred onstage. I have been to a lot of heavy music shows in my lifetime and if I have learnt one thing it’s this; if the drummer comes out shoeless- it’s going to be absolutely brutal. Along with guitarist Rasyid Juraimi and touring vocalist Gabriel Dubko, Wormrot smashed out an insanely fast and seamless set exhibiting an incredible command on mixing elements of grind, death, thrash and licky hard rock riffs keeping everyone immersed. Every track felt like a ride through the filthy decaying hell they were creating through their sound while their striking track intros each shifted the groove slightly before unleashing fast almost unsettling chaos again.
Napalm Death were well received by a rowdy crowd when the audience nearly doubled for them to start. Their stage presence just about smacked me in the face before they even got going, Mark “Barney” Greenway front man energy is like nothing I have ever witnessed as he moved about the stage dance-jogging, screaming, pacing and shaking his head. Out of context he may have appeared alarming and mentally unstable but he is so unapologetically present in the music it was moving to watch, and looking at the different faces in the crowd it was clear everyone was right there with him. It comes as no surprise given the prestige of this band that the sound was absolutely bang on. The sheer skill and passion in their performance was mind blowing and honestly impressive given how long they have been going. There was the usual charming British humour and banter with the audience along with the fierce and overt political musings which Napalm are notorious for. Playing an incredibly packed set with a catalogue spanning sixteen albums there was a good selection of over twenty tracks tracks from Lucid Fairytale (from 1988 album From Enslavement to Obliteration) to Invigorating Clutch (from latest release Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism).
What struck me the most about these guys was their sound which is still very much rooted in punk, but has evolved to lend itself to other more extreme music techniques (I was watching Shane Embury create some fairly alarming noises from his bass including some weird scratching of his strings to add to the eerie distortion with harmonic tension) you can clearly hear how their unique musical personality has become the foundation for an entire subgenre, it’s all there to bear witness to like a historical primary source.
Finishing the night with Siege of Power (from debut album Scum) the audience amped up for one last dance (or slamming bodies, whatever you call it) Napalm gracefully threw out their set lists and picks to adoring fans, even taking time to sign merch and thank everyone.
An important act to see at least once for anyone who loves heavy music, Napalm Death were an experience I not just appreciated but unexpectedly got lost in. The whole night was a vibe and everyone was just so happy and uninhibited. While as stated, I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much, I ended up buying a t-shirt and I will be waiting for the next opportunity to catch them live.
Live Review By Bec Scheucher