Municipal Waste and Napalm Death
Better Than: Hand stitching your denim vest.
The funk of sweat and cheap beer hung over the crowd. Patches covered jackets, leaving denim and leather scarcely visible underneath. Last night, Napalm Death and Municipal Waste bridged the heavy metal generation gap with sounds both current and retro, at once hearkening back to the days of 1980s tape trading with a finger on the pulse of everything “now” in the world of extreme music. The crowd reflected this: Everything from kids too young to remember Napalm Death's early work to veterans who've seen them at least a dozen times.
A motley crew formed the undercard. Bay Area crossover thrash vets Attitude Adjustment showed off the sounds that first pioneered something beyond even hardcore punk 25 years ago. Exhumed were heavier than heavy, their riffs blurring into a cacophonous white noise, the perfect soundtrack for a truly terrifying film. The Dwarves, transplanted from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay, did their usual hardcore-punk-meets-juvenilia thing. But everyone was there to see the dual headliners: Birmingham, England's grindcore pioneers Napalm Death and Richmond, Virginia crossover thrash revivalists Municipal Waste. The former are early pioneers of more extreme sounds while the latter are an unabashed retro act with a decidedly postmodern self-awareness.
Napalm Death have enjoyed a renaissance of late. Starting with 2006's Smear Campaign, the band have increasingly sounded more like their early work, albeit with better production and superior songwriting skills. Lightning fast blast beats mixed with intricate chord changes combine with frontman Barney Greenway's trademark throaty growl. Guitar player Mitch Harris provided backup vocals last night, akin to something one might expect from a corpse — a guttural, yet high pitched sound straight out of a cheap '70s gore movie.
Much to the crowd's chagrin the band showcased their newer work, audience requests for old classics be damned. They did, however, take time out to play classic tracks from their debut Scum, an album featuring no current members, as well as Harmony Corruption, widely regarded as a classic of the genre. Greenway bounded around the stage with a manic, unfocused energy that would put most teenagers to shame, grunting with the practiced polish of an opera singer. Drummer Danny Herrera's hands buzzed like a hummingbird's wings as he played what seemed like an endless stream of blast beats. Former Cryptic Slaughter front man Bill Crooks joined the band for a cover of “Low Life,” a highlight of their set.
Of course, it wouldn't be a grindcore set without a bit of sermonizing from the stage. In this regard, Greenway did not disappoint, variously opining on religion, American politics and fascism. (He doesn't like it, he's glad Romney lost and he's thinks it's bad.)
Municipal Waste, meanwhile…
…were nothing but booze, weed, skateboarding, sharks and zombie flicks. The band's angriest track was “You're Cut Off!” about the pain of a bartender refusing service. In sharp contrast to Napalm Death's weapons-grade noise, the Waste (as they are known to fans) play a tuneful brand of retro crossover thrash with catchy choruses and singalongs, bringing to mind bands like Suicidal Tendencies and D.R.I.
Lead singer Tony Foresta knows how to work a crowd, ordering chants of “Municipal Waste is gonna fuck you up!” He directed the crowd into a wall of death, an extreme form of moshing where participants line up on either side of the auditorium and charge at one another.
Napalm Death first pioneered extreme music in the 1980s. Municipal Waste represent a contemporary taste for the party thrash of the '80s. It's unlikely that one would have seen these bands share a bill 25 years ago, but the lines are not as clear as they once were. Headbangers, it would seem, prefer to live in a world where political protest and mindless partying exist side by side.
The Crowd: Grandparents bringing kids to their first metal show.
Random Notebook Dump: Municipal Waste guitarist Ryan Waste has a guitar shaped like the Waste's logo. How boss is that?