Live Review: Napalm Death - Blitz, Preston
21st October 2023
Support: Odysseus, All Consumed
Words: Dan Barnes
They said it couldn’t happen again. A freak occurrence in June 2007, never to be repeated. Or so we though – and I’m not talking about Mrs B admitting she was wrong about something - I’m talking about the National Treasure that is grind legends, Napalm Death, coming back to play in Preston.
Back then it was in the bar of 53Degrees, whereas tonight it’s in the more central location of Blitz. After spending yesterday in the capital with Cult of Luna at Beyond the Redshift, Napalm have headed north for a Saturday in Lancashire.
Ably abetted by a couple of regional bands, the show kicks off with the final show in the careers of Preston technical death metallers, All Consumed. Veterans of the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock 2014, where they ‘headlined’ the Saturday, All Consumed have been peddling their wares around the manor for more than a decade but have decided to call Time. They aren’t quite ready to gentle into the good night just yet, with one final hometown show to go.
Whether it’s the occasion or the legendary band watching from the wings, but All Consumed seem particularly on fire this evening. They mix older, establish material with tracks off the most recent album, this year’s Hallowed Violence. Whereas the older songs rage and grind through filthy riffs and an unbridled fury at the world, the newer tracks have a few grooves amongst the blasts.
When your guitarist is dreadlocked you know you’re going to get some Decapitated technicality; when your other guitarist is bespectacled with a huge beard, you’re very likely going to die in the pit. All of this atop a pummelling rhythm section and guttural vocals. For the final tune, Michael Skeech ditches his bass and hops into the melee at the front of the stage, Jimmy Gestapo-style, and closes All Consumed’s career with their most avid supporters.
Manchester four-piece, Odysseus, simply took Blitz by the scruff of the neck and didn’t let go until the band had finished their fun. Heavy guitars, excoriating vocals, six-string bass and polyrhythmic percussion mean this crew are probably the heaviest thing I’m seeing this week. Big call, I know, with Nappy D waiting to take the stage and Cult of Luna’s Ritz show on Thursday still fresh in the memory.
Odysseus are uncompromising from the opening notes, unleashing a relentless battery of jazz-infused, gravity-distorting riffs. Existing somewhere in a Ven diagram where Meshuggah, Converge and Dillinger meet, these Mancunians move bodies and fire synapses with equal fervour. When the six-string is swapped for a tradition four-string bass, it gives the subsequent songs a rougher, more abrasive edge. I’d not heard Odysseus before tonight, but on the evidence of this show alone, I’ll be monitoring their progress with interest.
And so to the main event of the evening. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Birmingham’s finest noise merchants: Napalm Death. Readers of these pages will need no introduction to this National Treasure – and I do not use the term lightly – as whomever would have considered, watching the BBC Arena programme back in ’89, that those Burmmies in the bedroom would go on to change the world?
Of course, Napalm Death is a very different beast from that interview, with only Shane remaining, but the core concept still holds firm. Sixteen albums in and consistently producing their best work speaks volumes and Napalm open tonight’s show with Narcissus from the 2022 Resentment is Always Seismic mini-album, followed by Backlash Just Because, Fuck the Factoid and Contagion from Throes of Joy. A statement, if ever there was one, that their music and their message is as relevant – perhaps more so – than it was when the band was young.
Built into those Throes tunes are the core elements of Napalm’s sound, the walls of dissonant noise and dirty instrumentation. Classic older material, Lucid Fairytale, Unchallenged Hate, the obligatory Scum and Suffer the Children mix well with the saxophone-featuring Everyday Pox, the unexpectedly tuneful Amoral and the admittedly “noisy as fuck” Invigorating Clutch.
Napalm have never been shy about the influence Michael Gira’s sonic experimentalists, Swans, have on their creative process and Barney’s even wearing a Holy Money shirt for tonight’s performance. It’s good to see him back on his feet again after the shows in March finding him confined to a chair, though the Blitz stage is slippery, leading him to liken it to “Bambi on ice”.
There’s the obvious The Kill and You Suffer as well as other classics from the deep past, Deceiver, Dead and a closing Siege of Power. We get a couple of covers, the usual Nazi Punks Fuck Off – which, when I saw Dead Kennedys in May I had to remind myself that it was their song in the first place – and Don’t Need It by Bad Brains.
It was great to hear Breed to Breathe back in the set and The Infiltrator, which I don’t remember every seeing played live before. Inside the Torn Apart and Words From the Exit Wound might be Black Sheep of the Napalm discography, but it’s always pertinent to remind us there is gold on them thar records.
I count my Napalm Death shows in the dozens these days, yet everyone is a treasured event and to see them again ‘just up the road’ is even more special. I feel lucky that in the past seventy-two hours I’ve managed to see two of my favourite bands and discover at least another two that I’ll be diving deeper into in the future.
Hope I don’t have to wait until 2039 for them to come back to Preston.