Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Rich Thompson
Birmingham’s Asylum was the aptly named venue for the return to the Midlands of Extreme Noise Terror.
A word first on Didcot deviants Black Skies Burn who opened up with ‘Pissing Off The Neighbours’ and then followed up with equal good taste by dedicating ‘Pigs In Blankets’ to dead coppers. ‘Colombian Marching Powder’ triggered the first bout of pit excitement as the quartet went hell for leather, treading about as gingerly as a pool of piranhas at feeding time.
Showing equally contemptible disregard for any sensitive souls in the audience, although I don’t think there were any, they then tore into ‘Gorging On Filth’; a dubious homage to internet pornography. Black Skies Burn even threw in a couple of quite sharp quips including such pearlers as ‘how do you stop an alcoholic choking?…the Heineken manoeuvre’.
Great energy, great fun!
Extreme Noise Terror have never claimed to own the rights to grindcore, or any other core come to that, but it’s a badge of honour many have gratefully pinned on their roughed up leathers down the years. You know an outfit has staying power when they still talk in glowing terms of John Peel. The legendary Peely gave the spotty and spiky Dean Jones a few shoves in the right direction when the brash braggadocios of the Suffolk punk scene were first starting out in the mid ‘80s.
Three decades later, Peel is now spinning discs in the sky, while the original ENT line-up is survived solely by Jones, an archetypal Kings Road punk rocker from his unkempt explosion of bleached hair down to his comprehensively studded leather jacket. While he will always remain a punk rocker, even having P.U.N.K. tattooed on his knuckles just in case there’s any doubt, ENT’s ballistic speed assault has always assured them of as many friends from the metal community, as from punks. In fact the healthy-sized crowd gathered at The Asylum was indeed more metal than punk in appearance, although the full bondage and safety pin attired punk rocker is thesedays almost as hard to find as a Scottish Conservative MP.
That may have something to do with the fact that most survivors of the 70s and 80s punk scene probably have more hair on their arse than their head. Although there was one mohican spotted at the Asylum to help make Dean feel among friends.
Since the sad passing of his long time soulmate and ENT co-singer Phil Vane in 2011, vocal duties have been shared between Dean and Ben McCrow, who many of those present would have seen perform with hardcore headcases The Rotted or their earlier formation Garotted. It would perhaps be taking liberties with the truth to say ENT exploded into life on The Asylum stage. What actually happened was Ben got up on stage while the not-to-be rushed Dean was still getting them in at the bar! Eventually united on stage the pair shared a few words with each other, then fellow band members (effectively made up of Welsh death metal crew Desecration) and then anyone in the audience who fancied a chat.
Once the small talk was over Dean finally signalled he was ready to commence by dedicating ‘Religion is Fear’ to all the atheists in the audience, so that’ll be all of us then! Dedicating songs to friends, family and good causes was de rigour in the old punk days and it’s a trait ENT have never lost. It’s a few years since I’ve heard a song about the apartheid regime in South Africa but ENT had one, dedicating it to anyone who’s ever suffered oppression. After a rowdy cheer, Dean acknowledged with a touching ‘much obliged’ sounding like an old punk favourite such as Captain Sensible.
No matter the content of ENT songs, the spirit and delivery is always full on aural annihilation played at near impossible speed, with Dean and Ben bouncing off each other like dodgem cars at the seaside. ‘Bullshit Propaganda’ sent the pit into total moshing meltdown. By now it had started to resemble a sweaty 70s punk gig, the sticky crowd morphing into a worryingly congealed mass with the sense of direction of a Kazakhstan lorry driver on the M25 whose sat nav has just given up.
ENT did just about manage one number from their forthcoming self-titled album, and considering pre-tour rehearsals were patchy at best, the bruising ‘Dogma Intolerance Control’ came across fairly well. There was a moment of pure punk nostalgia when the band plunged into the Sham 69 classic ‘Borstal Breakout’ (turn it up kids!). With most ENT songs falling short of the two-minute mark the cupboard was near enough bare, once they reached the hour barrier, even offering to play one song again immediately after, but this time even faster.
Extreme Noise Terror are no tired punk tribute. The original spirit of ’76 still pulses through their veins and in Dean Jones they possess a likeable, if at times unbalanced, soul who still lives and breathes the old days as though they never ended. Punk’s not Dead!