Napalm Death + Brujeria + Power Trip + Lock Up
Words by Jason Guest, photos by Tony Gaskin
Released in March, Lock Up’s fourth full length Demonization has deservedly been getting great reviews. Great track after great track, it’s a monster of an album with new vocal destroyer Kevin Sharp delivering a vicious performance. And tonight, fierce and fired up, Lock Up tear into the evening with 25 minutes of unremitting brutality. A four-band line-up may mean an early start but Lock Up aren’t about to take it easy on the already sizeable crowd, hitting them hard from start to finish, taking a short break only for Sharp to thank the crowd not only for coming out tonight but also for allowing him and the rest of the band to make a career out of grind. With the circle pit in full swing for their intense and incendiary performance, the bar is set for the evening.
“We’re Power Trip from Dallas, Texas. And before you ask, no, we didn’t vote for Trump. He should come to where we’re from ‘cos you know what we do to Presidents in Dallas, right?” Is there any better way to instantly endear yourself to the politically-savvy Napalm Death crowd? Released in February, Power Trip’s second album Nightmare Logic (reviewed here) will, for my money, be on more than a few Best of 2017 lists. With album openers ‘Soul Sacrifice’ and ‘Executioner’s Tax’ – a thrash anthem in itself (check the video here) – as this evening’s openers, the crowd are immediately into it, the circle pit intensifying as the band’s set progresses. ‘Nightmare Logic’ hits as hard as ‘The Hammer of Doubt’, and ‘Manifest Decimation’, well, decimates and the band leaves us beaten, pummelled and stunned by an incredible 35-minute blast of venomous and violent thrash at its best.
With the subject of politics broached, who else but Brujeria should be up next? Mask on, Shane Embury (I’m pretty certain it’s him, the disguise isn’t that great) is up for the second of his three stints this evening and leads the band on stage. Armed with salutes across the chest and 20-inch rusted (or bloodied?) machetes, the drug lord duo of Juan Brujo and Pinche Peach delivering vocals centre-stage are an imposing twosome, and their criminal and politically-charged rancour turns the evening into an invasion. Brutal and barbarous, the riffs are gruesome, the drums merciless, and swimming amongst the grinding grime is the occasional anthemic song that, in their vicious nature, bring band and crowd together as one. With the 40-minute set done and the crowd destroyed, while the stage is being prepped for this eve’s headliners, Juan sings and dances ‘La Macarena’. Who’d have thunk, huh?
“I suppose it is etiquette to say that we are Napalm Death, from Great Barr, Walsall and f**king Sparkhill!”, say the band that need no introduction, especially in their hometown. Because of having to cut their set to one hour, the band don’t want to short-change the crowd and we get tracks from Scum right the way through to latest Apex Predator – Easy Meat. And so, in good cheer and plenty of beer, the sermon begins. What follows is a typically crushing set peppered with Barney’s heartfelt reminders that because we live in austere times – “Fuck the Tories!”, comes a defiant exclamation from the crowd – we need to look after each other more than ever.
That the lyrics of every song in the set, despite its age, resonate so strongly in our current social and political climate, it’s apt that Napalm Death are on tour. With Trump turning American politics into farce and the media coverage of the recently-announced snap election in the UK aping that of the big orange one stateside while the class divide broadens, tracks such as ‘Twist the Knife (Slowly)’, ‘Dear Slum Landlord…’, ‘Smash a Single Digit’, ‘From Enslavement to Obliteration’, ‘When All Is Said and Done’, and ‘How The Years Condemn’ take on an even more acerbic tone as they blast past in bursts of the band’s idiosyncratic melange of impossibly fast riffs, irate and pointed grunts, and hammer-slammed beats.
Up for his third set of the evening and showing no sign of wear, Embury hits his bass like it’s his first fight of the day, his colossal tone ensuring that the foundations of this building are shook to their very core. Mick Harris hits the kit with all the fury and precision that the songs demand. Filling in for Mitch Harris, guitarist/backing vocalist John Cooke plays every note as if it were his own and does the band proud – that is when he’s not waving to his friends in the crowd. “No, you carry on,” jokes Barney, “I’ll just get on with it, shall I?” And Barney is his usual energetic self, doing laps around the stage while exchanging political and light-hearted banter with the crowd between songs.
‘You Suffer’ comes and goes in the blink of an ear (if ears can blink, that is) – “Concentrate!” quips Barney for those that almost missed it. A trio of covers – The Offenders’ ‘Face Down in the Dirt’, ‘Hate, Fear and Power’ by Hirax (“that stretches the vocals a bit”), and the always-welcome ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off!’ by Dead Kennedys – get a raging response before Birmingham’s best leave us with ‘Adversarial / Copulating Snakes’ and a wall of feedback. It’s been a while since they played their hometown but after tonight’s set, I think we can forgive them. But please don’t make us wait so long next time…