Groveling Before the Gods of Grind: Napalm Death at Teragram
Of all the epic metal shows Church of the 8th Day has ever put on, Napalm Death at the Teragram has got to be my favorite. The creators and gods of Grindcore, Napalm Death, changed music forever by goofing on certain elements that other genres wouldn’t dare experiment with at the time in 1981. Partially a farce, Grindcore didn’t care about what lyrics their growls were actually belting out and whether they actually matched-up with what was written. They would also do something as absurd as write songs under 10 seconds long. This was so groundbreaking at the time that the band generated mainstream attention by people that were just curious about how such a strange and shocking art form could exist.
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Underneath this musical insanity and humor, Napalm Death has always carried the most serious political messaging behind their extreme sound. Their first album Scum opens up just the same way their Teragram set did, with “Multinational Corporations” going into “Instinct of Survival” which is a very confrontational, diagnosis of the world’s disease. Greedy, self-serving, corporations making money off of people’s plight and dying.
“The multinational corporations
Makes its profit from the starving nations
Indigenous peoples become their slaves
From their births into their graves
The multinational corporations
Makes its profit from the starving nations
Another product for you to buy
You’ll keep paying until you die”
Opening the evening was Thrown into Exile, a polished melodic-death metal outfit from Los Angeles that shreds with peaking and hard punching guitars. The singer’s growls are top-notch and sharp as can be. This is a death metal band good and accessible enough to play mainstream rock festivals and it’s only a matter of time until they reach that rung on the ladder.
Playing second was Crematorium, the band belonging to Church of the 8th Day’s grand poobah, Danny Dismal. Having only known Dismal as a booker, I was actually pleasantly surprised at how brutal his vocals were. Crematorium play chugging, visceral death metal jams that reverberate through your bones. In between songs, Danny delivers his unique take on everything from politics to personal relationships. He had no issue wearing his heart on his sleeve and discussing his issues with addiction then also went into his history working with other bands, including The Dwarves which the band went on to cover. On this night, a back and forth with a drunken audience member resulted in us seeing the beast behind the artist and businessman. Dismal kicked the mother fucker out and the anger that bubbled up in him from the altercation seemed to fuel his set with more fire.
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It was cool to see another huge band, Cattle Decapitation, playing direct-support before Napalm Death. They serve an especially technical and brutal variety of grindcore/death metal. Some fans came to see them specifically but still… before they went on Dismal had to excuse the band, saying that a lot of people hate on Cattle Decapitation but that they deserve props. And there’s a reason for people’s hating. Though technical, their music is actually rather boring live. It simply doesn’t capture an audience like other brutal extreme bands do. That and there’s something about the band that carries a Hot Topic vibe. Like Napalm Death, they too have strong messaging in their music. Cattle Decapitation not only champions animal rights but also defends the planet with songs about how humanity is creating unsustainable ecological decay. All that said, Josh Elmore has incredible chops and finger-work on the guitar while Travis Ryan has an especially unique vocal growl. You’ll find few bands that exert as much energy on a stage.
Napalm Death played one of the best metal sets I have seen all year. They were charged with so much anger and dissidence and it permeated through every element of their performance, from Shane Embury’s signature brutal guitar sound to Barney Greenway’s jogging on stage between insane guttural growls. The band’s set jumped around through their entire career, spanning nearly four decades of records. Beginning with the first two tracks off their first record which featured original singer, Lee Dorian, on the recordings. The band quickly went on to more recent material with “On the Brink of Extinction” and “Unchallenged Hate”.
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When Napalm Death plays their more direct calls for social change, the audience truly listens. Songs like “Call That An Option” and “Smash A Single Digit” make audiences mosh as if every trampling stomp is another shot at the system itself. What I was waiting to hear most was “You Suffer”, the band’s six second song off Scum. The lyrics of which are simply–
“You suffer, but why?”
That reads like it would take longer than six seconds but it all comes out as a single nuanced growl. The cover songs featured in the setlist this evening were both incredible. First the band paid homage to their inspirations, Swedish hardcore punks Anti Cimex. Then later, the band played their signature cover of Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and I realized that with all these bands covering the song, it has become the anthem of the Trump years. And though Donald Trump’s presence was more toned down than one might’ve expected, before singing “How The Years Condemn”, Barney dedicated it to our scumbag in office.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Dillon Vaughn