Camp HRH, March 24 2017
Napalm Death’s many acolytes were greeted by a strange sight when their heroes hit the stage. We’d (sort of) got used to Corrupt Moral Altar’s John Cooke filling in for guitarist Mitch Harris, but no Shane Embury? The omnipresent bassist is as synonymous with the grind masters as blastbeats and anti-fascist politics, a mainstay since 1987. It didn’t take too long for cries of “Where’s Shane?” to emerge from an anxious crowd. The answer? Over in Central America, bringing his low end rumble to side-project Brujeria, rather than anything more worrying. And in ex-Nasum four stringer Jesper Liveröd, there was a time-served grindcore veteran to take his place on stage.
Anxieties were only temporarily calmed though, after an injury to a crowd member brought proceedings to an early halt. As the medical and security teams went to work, Barney Greenway decided his band were an unnecessary distraction, given the circumstances. A sensible chap, our Barney.
Thankfully, after a lengthy delay, Napalm Death were back, firing up a packed arena like only they can: Greenway, for instance, was a livewire, twitching and convulsing with every riff, every hyperspeed burst of snares and kick drums. The amiable Brummie looks in better shape now than he did 20 years ago, which is just as well, given that he has to lead the band through the likes of Stunt Your Growth, Scum and From Enslavement To Obliteration.
Cooke’s guitar sound, frustratingly, was often lost in a barrage of noise, but that didn’t stop Hammerfest feeding off the quartet’s energy and turning one part of Hafan y Môr into a whirlwind of flying bodies, spraying sweat and spilled beer.
However, despite its violent intensity, there’s always a message in the music. Greenway using his mic to call for ‘love and peace’, to take on the far right, to lay in to sweatshop owners. And there’s a positivity to Napalm Death too: this set wasn’t a lecture, but a call for unity and respect, a celebration of metal, punk and hardcore in their most extreme forms.
A trio of covers – The Offenders’ Face Down In The Dirt, Hirax’s Hate, Fear and Power and of course The Dead Kennedys’ Nazi Punks Fuck Off – pushed the intensity levels into the red, and Adversarial/Copulating Snakes finished off an exhausted crowd.
Unfamiliar line-up? Yes. But it was still business as usual for Napalm Death.