It’s been a long time coming but NAPALM DEATH have finally embarked on their long delayed Campaign for Music Destruction tour and tonight we find ourselves on the tail end of this extensive run of shows in the bowels of Manchester Academy. A doors time of 7pm does seem like a surprisingly late start for a packed four band line up, but then this is a punk show after all and with an average song length that just about squeaks past the 2 minute mark this promises to be a fast, efficient, brutal and beautifully noisy night which will be a scream for strong messages of acceptance and inclusivity and a big old cry against the general chaotic mess of the world…also bears.
Up first on this absolutely stacked line up are ‘powerviolence’ quartet ESCUELA GRIND. Just as the genre tag might allude to this set is a ferociously intense sprint from the word go. A scorching display of growls from vocalist Katerina Economou who’s energy on stage is simply infectious to watch is backed up with pummelling blasts from drummer Jesse Fuentes as the group tear through an electric set including selections from their latest release Memory Theater which just sound phenomenal in the live setting. Be sure to add Escuela Grind to your list to check out when they’re back over this way, you won’t regret it.
Siberian Meat Grinder
Following on from that onslaught of an opener are Moscow based thrash blenders SIBERIAN MEAT GRINDER. With a vocalist snarling out bars fitting of their bear mask and the rest of the band providing a healthy dose of riffy goodness it doesn’t take long for the room to start spinning once more. If it wasn’t clear already the onstage appearance of the Bear-Tsar himself part way through the show, adorned in regal crown and cloak, should make it obvious that this lot like a dash of whimsy with their Thrash-Rap-Groove-Core mix up and that’s alright with us.
It is clear from our view from the pit that there are already a number in attendance tonight who are devoted followers of the bear cult collective and judging by the reaction to tonight’s performance there is sure to be an influx of new converts in the near future.
With the room slowly settling after that little thrashing it’s with an air of hot anticipation that scene icons DROPDEAD take to the stage. It’s the intimidating intensity of the sermons voiced by vocalist Bob Otis revolving around the band’s strong views on issues including animal rights that lends a fiery undertone to the ensuing series of short abrasive blasts of hardcore punk. Tracks like ‘A Disease Called Man’ , ‘Scream at the Wall’ and a one-two of ‘Unjustified Murder’ and ‘At the Cost of an Animal’ along with Otis’ flourishing of the microphone in wild arcs, like he’s about to corral the already captive audience, make it clear the band’s intent is to leave the entire room flattened but the end of their set.
As we come to the final stages the night it’s fair to say that NAPALM DEATH have faced some considerable obstacles in the process of this tour. With the absence of bassist Shane Embury due to health and the presence of a plaster cast booted Barney Greenway (having suffered a broken ankle during the band’s Munich show earlier in the run) it would have been understandable if the band had decided to admit defeat on this occasion but instead the group forged ahead with guitarist Matt Sheridan taking up bass duties (having already slayed earlier tonight with Siberian Meat Grinder) and who says you can’t campaign for musical destruction from the best seat in the house!? Fully mobile Greenway is a famously frenetic presence on stage, confined to a static seated position however he is a veritable powder keg.
As soon as the band launch into their blistering 20+ song set with openers ‘Narcissus’ and recent album’s ‘Backlash Just Because’ any doubts as to the group’s ability to still deliver an absolute top tier performance despite it all are swiftly quashed. The whole room is a whirlwind of movement for the next hour or so with selections from the band’s latest release ‘Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism’ as well as highlights from their expansive back catalogue including ‘Scum’, ‘Suffer the Children’ and ‘When All Is Said And Done’. Oh, and of course, greatest song ever written ‘You Suffer’ goes down a storm.
As the dark shadow of curfew looms the band rages towards a blistering finale. With moments to spare a raucous cry of “NAZI PUNKS FUCK OFF” heralds the arrival of the Dead Kennedys’ classic followed up swiftly by ‘Siege of Power’ to top off the evening.
All images by William Mawdsley | Instagram